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God of Vengeance 

Drama in Three ABs 


Authorized Translation from the Yiddish 
With Introduction and Notes 

by Isaac Goldberg 

Preface by Abraham Cahan 

Editor of The Jewish Daily Forward 

and Author of "The Rise of 

David Levinsky" 

M C M X V I I I 

Copyright 1918 

The STRATFORD CO., Publishers 

Boston, Mass. 

The Alpine Press, Boston, Mass., U. S. A. 



Editor of the Jewish Daily Forward and author of 

"Yehi;' "The White Terror and the Red/' "The 

Rise of David Levinsky" etc. 

THE birth of Yiddish literature in Russia and 
the beginning of the gTeat Jewish exodus 
from that country to America are two effects 
of one and the same cause. The same anti-semitic 
crusade that forced the Children of Israel to go be- 
yond the seas in search of a safe home, aroused 
them to a new sense of their racial self-respect and 
to an unwonted interest in their native tongue. 

Prior to the anti-Jewish riots of 1881 educated 
Jews were wont to look upon their mother tongue 
as a jargon beneath the dignity of cultured atten- 
tion. Yiddish, more especially in its written form, 
was the language of the untutored. People with 
modem training spoke and wrote Russian. As for 
the intellectual class of the Talmudic type, it would 
carry on its correspondence and, indeed, write its 
essays, verse and fiction, in the language of Isaiah. 
One wrote Yiddish to one's mother, for the mothers 
of those days were not apt to understand anything 
else. For the rest, the tongue of the Jewish 
masses was never taken seriously and the very no- 



tion of a literature in "sl gibberish that has not 
even a grammar" would have seemed ludicrous. 

Popular stories and songs were written in Yid- 
dish long before the end of the nineteenth century, 
but, barring certain exceptions, these were intended 
exclusively for the most ignorant elements of the 
populace, and were contemptuously described as 
''servant-maid literature/' (As for Yiddish poetry, 
it was almost wholly confined to the purposes of 
the wedding bard.) The exceptions here mentioned 
belong to the sixties and the seventies, when some 
brilliant attempts were made in the direction of 
literature in the better sense of the term by S. J. 
Abramovitch. But Abramovitch 's stories were not 
even regarded as vanguard swallows heralding the 
approach of Spring. They aroused an amused sort 
of admiration. Indeed, it required a peculiar in- 
dependence of mind to read them at all, and while 
they were greeted with patronizing applause, it was 
a long time before they found imitators. 

All this changed when the whip of legal discrimi- 
nation and massacres produced the ''national 
awakening" of the educated Jew. Thousands of 
enlightened men and women then suddenly made 
the discovery, as it were, that the speech of their 
childhood was not a jargon, but a real language, — 
that instead of being a wretched conglomeration of 
uncouth words and phrases, it was rich in neglected 
beauty and possessed a homely vigor full of artistic 
possibilities. A stimulus was given to writing Yid- 
dish "as the Gentiles do their mother tongues." 
Abramovitch was hailed as "the father of Yiddish 



literature ' ' and his example was followed by a num- 
ber of new writers, several of whom proved to be 
men of extraordinary gifts. 

The movement bears curious resemblance to that 
of the present literary renaissance of Ireland. 

Some truly marvelous results were soon achieved, 
the list of writers produced by the new literature 
including the names of men like Rabinovitch (Sho- 
lom Aleikhem) and Peretz, whose tales were crowned 
with immense popularity. 

Sholom Ash belongs to a younger group of Yid- 
dish story-tellers and now that Abramovitch, Rabin- 
ovitch and Peretz are in their graves (they have 
all died during the last two years) he is the most 
popular living producer of Yiddish fiction. 

His narratives and plays are alive with a spirit 
of poetic realism, with a stronger leaning toward 
the poetic than toward reality, perhaps, but always 
throbbing with dramatic force and beauty. Sholom 
Ash's passion for color and melody manifests it- 
self as much in his rich, ravishing style as in the 
picturesque images it evokes. The ''jargon of ser- 
vant maids" becomes music in his hands. 

His ''God of Vengeance," which is his strongest 
play, is one of the best things he has written in any 
form. Absorbingly interesting and instinct with 
human sympathy, it mounts to a natural climax of 
cataclysmal force and great spiritual beauty. 

The theme, while thoroughly original and unique, 
reflects the artistic traditions of the country in 
which the author was bom and bred. It was a mat- 
ter of course that the young literature of which he 


is a conspicuous representative should shape itself 
under the influence of the much older and richer 
literary treasures of Slavic Russia and Poland. If 
it was natural for the novel of countries like 
France, Germany, Norway or Italy to fall under 
the sway of Turgenev, Tolstoi, Dostoyevski, Chek- 
hov and Gorki, how much more so was it for a 
non-Russian fiction produced on Russian soil to seek 
guidance, directly or indirectly, in the same source. 

Human sympathy is the watchword. Pity for 
and interest in the underdog — the soul of Russian 
art — became, from the very outset, the underlying 
principle of the new-bom Yiddish art. No human 
being is so utterly brutalized as to possess not a 
single spark worthy of the artist's sympathetic, 
though ruthlessly impartial, attention, — this is the 
basic rule of Yiddish letters. 

Himself a creature of the gutter, Yekel Tchaftcho- 
vitch, the central figure of ' ' The God of Vengeance, ' ' 
is stirred by the noblest ambition known to a father 
in the world of orthodox Judaism. Imbedded in the 
slime that fills Yekel 's soul is a jewel of sparkling 
beauty. But the very income by which he seeks 
to secure his daughter's spiritual splendor contains 
the germs of her loathsome fall and of his own 
crushing defeat. 

The clash between Yekel 's revolting career and 
his paternal idealism, and the catastrophe to which 
it inevitably leads form one of the strongest and 
most fascinating situations known to the modern 



I cannot conclude without a word of well-earned 
praise for the English version of *'The God of 
Vengeance." Dr. Isaac Goldberg's translation is 
not only a thoroughly correct and felicitous equiva- 
lent of the original, but a piece of art in itself. 

New York City, April, 1918. 



SHOLOM ASH is one of the cliief authors in con- 
temporary Yiddish letters, — a literature at 
present enjoying a renaissance that attests the 
remarkable vitality of a people long oppressed in 
intellectual no less than in economic domains, — a 
literature that has much to teach America in the way 
of fearlessness before the facts of life, frankness in 
their interpretation and persistent idealism in face 
of the most degrading and debasing environment. 
Indeed, the conjunction of squalid surroundings, 
sordid occupation and idealistic yearning to be met 
so frequently in Jewish writers arises most natur- 
ally from the peculiar conditions of much of the life 
in ghettos the world over. 

It is interesting to consider Ash's *'The God of 
Vengeance" in connection with a play like ''Mrs. 
Warren's Profession." To be sure, there is no 
technical resemblance between the two dramas; nor, 
despite an external similarity in backgrounds, is 
there any real identity of purpose. Shaw's play is 
essentially sociological, and is a drama of disillu- 
sionment. Ash's piece glows with poetic realism 
and recounts an individual tragedy not without sym- 
bolic power. Yet the essentially (though not con- 
ventionally) moral earnestness of both Shaw and Ash 
brings the circles of their themes in a sense tangent 
to each other. 

Mrs. Warren cherishes no delusions about her 


dubious profession, — neither the delusion of that 
sentimentalization of the prostitute which Dumas 
helped so much to effect and which Augier strove to 
combat, nor the delusion of the conser\^ative, con- 
ventional horror before an institution for the per- 
petuation of which conservatism and convention- 
alism are much to blame. If Yekel and his wife (in 
Ash's play) are not so enlightened as Mrs. Warren 
in their views upon the traffic off which they live, 
they are in their own crude way equally sincere in 
beholding in it a business quite as legitimate as any 
other. With the same inconsistency with which 
Hindel implores Heaven for aid in achieving her 
nefarious aims, after which she promises to be a 
model wife and mother (See Act Two), Mrs. War- 
ren at the end of Shaw's play swears by Heaven 
that henceforth she will lead a life of evil. 

In the case of Yekel and his wife, as in Mrs. War- 
ren's, another touch of inconsistency is added by 
the agreement that theirs is not the best of profes- 
sions. Crofts, too, in the English play, discusses 
the business with all the matter-of-f actness of Ash 's 
Shloyme, yet considers himself a gentleman none 
the less. 

Rifkele, of course, is no Vivie. Ash's simple- 
minded Jewish girl is a victim, not a rebel. Yet 
in either case the daughter is lost to the parents, 
and the power of money is of no avail to Avin the 
child back. And just as Yekel, in his impotence, 
blashphemously thrusts the Holy Scroll from his 
household, so does Mrs. Warren, defeated in her at- 
tempt to win back her daughter, cry ''From this 


time forth, so help me Heaven in my last hour, I'll 
do wrong and nothing but wrong. And I'll prosper 
on it." Perhaps, too, the retribution which in each 
case is visited upon the parent arises from the fact 
that both Mrs. Warren and Yekel have, in Vivie's 
accusatory words, "lived one life and believed in 
another. ' ' 

'*The God of Vengeance," despite conclusions too 
easily drawn, is not a sex play. When Ash wishes 
to deal with sex as sex he is not afraid to handle 
the subject with all the poetry and power at his 
command. Such a play as his "Jephthah's Daugh- 
ter" treats the elemental urge of sex with daring, 
beauty and Dionj'siac abandon. Here, too, a golden 
symbolism wafts through the piece. Again, in his 
powerful novel ''Mottke the Vagabond," Ash has 
given us scenes from the underworld of Warsaw 
that are unparalleled for unflinching truth to detail. 
**The God of Vengeance," however, despite the 
sordid environment in which the play takes place, 
possesses a certain moral beauty, — a beauty much 
dimmed, perhaps, by the repellant human beings 
who are its carriers, but a beauty none the less. 
Its symbolism and its poetry lift it far above the 
brothel in which it takes place. And what a strong 
conception is the Holy Scroll, itself one of the chief 
characters, and how frightfully eloquent in the myste- 
rious, religious power that the dramatist has woven 
around it!* 

*The Holy Scroll, the religious significance of which is 
fully explained in the course of the play, is a parchment 
manuscript containing the first five books of the Bible, to- 
gether known as the Torah, or Law. (Pentateuch). 



First produced by the famous director Max Rein- 
hardt, at the Deutsches Theater, Berlin, in 1910, 
Ash^s powerful play quickly made its way to the 
chief stages of Europe. It has been played all over 
Germany, Austria, Russia, Poland, Holland, Nor- 
way, Sweden and Italy. In Italy it created a 
marked impression during- the entire season of 1916. 
**The God of Vengeance" has been translated into 
Hebrew, German, Russian, Polish, Dutch, Swedish, 
Norwegian, Italian and French. 

Ash himself is yet a young man, having been born 
near Warsaw, some thirty-seven years ago. He is 
at present settled in New York, where pages flow in 
rapid succession from his prolific pen. Among his 
better known works are the following: 

THE TOWN. A collection of sketches depicting 
Yiddish life in the '^staedtil" of the Old World. 
It was this work that brought him into prominence 
at the age of twenty-four. 

MERI and THE ROAD TO SELF. A pair of 
novels forming a continuous whole, in which the 
author, with a wealth of color and episode, depicts 
the wanderings of Jewish souls in search of self- 
realization. The background, mainly that of the 
Russian revolution of 1905, shifts to various parts 
of the globe. The books are rich in poetry and 
movement, and have been referred to as the epic 
of the Yiddish part in the revolution of 1905. Be- 
sides this the love story of Men Rosenzweig and 
Misha, and the figures of Rachel and Kovalski the 



artist, lend to the novels all the charm that love can 
add to adventure and beautiful language to both. 

MOTTKE THE VAGABOND. (Translated into 
English.) A powerful tale of life in the underworld 
of Warsaw, and the career of a Yiddish ** cellar- 
child." American critics have found Ash, in this 
book, comparable in various respects to such authors 
as Hugo, Dickens and Gorki. 

THE SINNER. (Translated into English.) A 
one-act symbolic play of intense power, which has 
been likened for its atmosphere to certain of Maeter- 
linck's dramas. The story, which deals with the 
refusal of a Jewish grave to receive the corpse of a 
man who has sinned by marrying out of the faith, 
is developed with penetrating skill and impartial 

OUR FAITH. A full-length drama upon a theme 
similar to that just touched upon. The author's re- 
fusal to cater to orthodox views shows his artistic 

SHORT STORIES. The best of the numerous 
short stories that Ash has published in his various 
collections attain a high degree of artistic excel- 
lence. That same nervous prose as distinguishes 
his longer pieces, that same linguistic iridescence, — 
one might term it, — as he achieves in such remark- 
able places as Chapter XIII (Part One) of ''Meri" 
and Chapter XLI (Part Two) of ''The Road to 
Self," are encountered often in his many shorter 



In his more notable work Ash glows with a spon- 
taneous artistry. It is this part of Ash's work that 
holds much pleasure in store for an increasing num- 
ber of American readers who are awakening to the 
beauties of Yiddish literature. 

Roxbury, Mass., April, 1918. 


Persons of the Drama 

known as the ^' Uncle;'' the owner of a 

SARAH, his ivife; formerly a prostitute. 

RIFKELE, their daughter; a young girl of 
about seventeen. 

HINDEL, first girl of the hrothel; a girl of some 
thirty odd years, hut much older in appear- 

MANKE, second girl; rather young. 

REIZEL, third girl. 

BASHA, a country lass, recently arrived. 

SHLOYME, a procurer; RindeVs hetrothed, a 
handsome chap of twenty-six, 

REB ALI, a matchmaker ; neighhor of the 

REB YANKEV, a pious Scrihe. 

A STRANGER, father of Rifkele's proposed 

A POOR WOMAN, blind in one eye. 

Poor Men and Women of the neighborhood. 

Time: The Present. 
Place: One of the larger towns of a 
Russian province. 


Scene: The '^Uncle's" private dwelling on 
the ground floor of an old woode^i house. Be- 
low, in the cellar, is the brothel. A flight of 
rickety wooden stairs, whose creaking announces 
the coming of all visitors, leads from the outside 
into the home, which consists of a large room 
with a low ceiling. The furniture is new, in the 
cheap Warsaw style, and does not at all har- 
monize with the old-fashioned structure. On 
the wall hang pictures embroidered upon canvas, 
depicting scenes from the Bible, such as ^'Adam 
and Eve at the Tree of Knowledge,'' etc. These 
are evidently a young girl's handiwork. At the 
rear, the door leading to the outside. To the 
right, a door leading to Rifkele's room.' * At 
each side of this door, placed against the wall, a 
bed piled high with bedding. To the left, two 
low windows, hung with curtains and provided 
with shutters that close from the inside* Before 
the windows, pots of flowers; between, a cup- 
board; at the side of one of the windows, a 

The finishing touches are being put to the 
cleaning of the room. . . Evidently guests are ex- 
pected. . . Extra tables and benches have been 
placed ahout, laden with baskets of bread, cake, 
fruit, etc. 

An afternoon in early spring. 


Act I 

Sarah and Rifkele are discovered as the cur- 
tain rises. Sarah is a tall, slender, prepossessing 
woman. Her features have become coarsened, 
yet they retain traces of her former beauty, 
which has even now a tone of insolence. On her 
head lies a wig, through which, from time to 
time, shows a lock of her alluring hair. She is 
dressed quite soberly, as befits a mother, yet a 
vulgar display of jewels spoils this effect. Her 
movements, too, reveal that she is not quite lib- 
erated from the influences of the world out of 
which she has risen. 

Rifkele is a fascinating girl, dressed very 
neatly and modestly; still in short dresses, with 
two long braids hanging across her shoulders. 
She is busy decorating the room. 

Rifkele, as she pins some paper flowers to 
the curtain. 

There! That's the way, mamma dear. And 
now to decorate the mirror. See, mamma dear. 
Won't this be pretty? 

Sarah, busy arranging the table. 
Hurry, daughter dear, hurry. Your father 
has already gone to ask the guests to bring the 
Holy Scroll home. 




Won't that be lovely! We'll have a house 
full of people. . . There'll be playing and sing- 
ing. . . Yes, mamma dear? 

Yes, my darling. It's a sacred event, — a 
great merit in the eyes of God. . . Not everyone 
can have a Holy Scroll written. Only a man of 
dignity, a person of standing. 


And will there be girls, too? And dancing? 
Eeally, mamma dear? (Suddenly.) I'll have to 
buy myself a waist, ma. And a pair of white 
slippers. (Sticking out her shoes.) You can't 
dance in shoes, can you? 

When you'll be engaged, in God's good time. 
Next Passover I'll make you a long dress and 
buy you slippers. Girls will come, fine young 
ladies, respectable ones. And you'll chum with 

RiFKELE, stubbornly. 

You're always putting things off until Pass- 
over. I'm a grown-up girl already. (Looking 
into the mirror.) See, ma. I'm a big girl. 
(Showing her hair.) And just see how long my 
braids are. Why, Manke tells me. . . (Inter- 



rupting herself.) And Manke will be there, too, 
won't she, mamma dear? 

No, my darling. Only nice, respectable girls. 
For you are a respectable child, a decent Jewish 
daughter. . . 


Why not, mamma dear? Manke sketched a 
David's shield for me on the cover of the Holy 
Scroll. . . I'm going to embroider it now in silk 
thread, — a wreath of leaves and a garland of 
flowers. You'll see how beautiful it'll be, ma. 
{Points to the pictures on the wall.) A hundred 
times prettier than these. . . 

Sarah, with deep concern. 
"Woe is me ! Don 't tell that to your father ! 
He'll scold and fly into a rage when he hears of 


Why, mamma dear? It's for the Holy Scroll, 
isn't it? 

Your father will rave! (Footsteps are heard.) 
Hush, Rifkele, father is coming. 

Yekel, still without. 
What? Do they think I'll get down on my 
knees and beg them? Not on their lives! (En- 



ters. He is a tall, strong man of about forty, 
stout; swarthy countenance, covered ivith dark 
hair; his Mack heard cut round. He speaks in 
loud, gruff tones, at the same time making coarse 
gestures and grasping the lapel of the man 
whom he happens to he addressing. Despite 
this, his face and person heam with a certain 
frank geniality.) So they won't come! They 
don't have to! ... So I got together some poor 
folks. . . Don't you worry. . . We'll have plenty 
of customers for our honey-cakes and our geese. 
{Noticing Rifkele, he sits doicn.) Come here, 
my little Rifkele, come to papa. 

Saeah, angered, hut trying to conceal her feel- 
ings, continues to set the tahle. 
Do they think they'll soil their pedigree by 
coming to you ? And when they need to borrow 
a hundred-rouble note. . . or take a charity con- 
tribution. . . they're not at all ashamed of your 
company then. . . The Gentile is impure, but 
his money's untainted.* 

She's afraid already. Something new to 
worry about, eh? Never fear, it'll spoil noth- 
ing of yours. . . {Calls Rifkele.) Well, well, 
come to daddy, won't you? 

■ The force of this in the original is increased by the use of 
the terms 'trayf and 'kosher,' i. e., that which, accord- 
ing to the Mosaic dietary laws, is unfit or fit to be eaten. 



RiFKELE, approaches her father very unwill- 
ingly, in fear. 
What does papa dear want? 

Don't be afraid, Rifkele, I won't hurt you. 
{Takes her hand.) You like your father, don't 

Nods "yes.'' 

Then why are you afraid of him? 

I don't know. 

Don't be afraid of papa. He loves you. 
Very, very much. Today I'm having a Holy 
Scroll written. It costs a good deal of money. 
All for you, my child, all for you. {Rifkele is 
silent. Pause.) And with God's help, when you 
are betrothed, I'll buy your sweetheart a gold 
watch and chain — the chain will weigh half a 
pound. . . Papa loves you very dearly. {Rifkele 
is silent. She lowers her head bashfully. 
Pause.y Don't be ashamed. There's nothing 
wrong about being engaged. God has ordained 
it. {Pause.) That's nothing. Every^bcdy gets 
engaged and married. {Rifkele is silent. 
Pause.) Well, now. Do you love daddy? 



RiFKELE, nodding, and speaking softly. 

Well, then. What do you want me to buy 
you? Tell me, Rifkele. {She makes no reply.) 
Tell me, now. Don't be afraid. Your daddy 
loves you. Tell me, like a good little girlie. 
What shall I buy you? {Rifkele is silent.) 

Sarah, busy at the table, to Rifkele, 
Well, why don't you answer when your father 
speaks to you? 

I don't know. . . 

Sarah, to Yekel, 
She wants a silk waist and a pair of white 

Is that it? A silk waist and a pair of white 
slippers ? Eh ? 

Nods ''yes,'' 


You certainly deserve them. {From his 

pockets, which jingle with coins, he takes out a 

gold-piece and offers it to Rifkele.) Here, give 

this to mamma. And let her buy them for you. 



{Rifkele takes the money and hands it to her 
mother. On the stairs outside is heard the 
noise of tJie poor folk whom Yekel has invited. 
Yekel turns to Sarah.) See? You said (He 
opens the door.) that you would have no ^ests. 
(Calls.) Now then. Come in. Come in. (En- 
ter a crowd of poor people, men and women, at 
first singly, as if they were stealing in; then more 
boldly, in groups. All greet Yekel, some of 
them ironically.) 

People in the Crowd 
Good day to you, host! (To Sarah.) Good 
day to you, hostess. 

Puts on an apron, places in it loaves of white 
bread, rolls, honey-cakes and so forth, and dis- 
tributes them among the guests. 

One op the Poor Men 
Long life to you, hostess, and may you live 
to celebrate joyous events beyond number. 

A Woman 
May the Holy Scroll bring good fortune and 
be a blessing to your home. 

Yekel, throiving slices of white bread to the 
poor people. To Sarah. 
Give them a whole pound of cake apiece. And 
a bottle of brandy to take home with them. 



Let them know that I'm celebrating today. . . 
Never mind. I can well afford it. 

A Woman, Blind in One Eye, praising Yekel 
and Sarah before her poor neighbors. 
This is a house for you, such luck may I have. 
Nobody ever leaves this place empty-handed. 
There's always a plate of soup for the sick, a 
shirt for a poor fellow. What then? Do you 
think you can get anything over there where 
the proud purses live?* {Sarah, as if not hear- 
ing the woman's words, throws into the apron of 
the latter a few more portions of food. The 
old woman holds up her apron and continues 
to talk.) Whenever there's a celebration here. . . 
whoever you are. . . however humble your 
trade. . . 

Other Poor Folks, among themselves. 
That's so. May we know such luck. . . May 
such good fortune be ours! . . 

Yekel, takes out a handful of small change 
and casts it into Rifkele's apron. 
Here, divide this among the poor folks. {Rif- 
kele distributes the money.) 

The Blind Woman, notv enthusiastic, pointing 

to Rifkele. 

And show me, in the whole town, another 

girl as respectable as she! . . . {To the other 

women.) Why, Eabbis haven't such virtuous 

* Literally, 'under the high windows.' 



children! {More softly, yet loiid enough for 
Yekel and Sarah to hear.) God alone knows 
how such a pure child came to them. . . Imagine, 
brought up in such a place, — may Heaven not 
punish us for mentioning it. {Louder.) And 
they guard her like the apple of their eye. . . 
They weigh and measure every step she takes. 
It's a delight to look at her. {Goes over to 
Yekel.) Never mind. Everybody knows it. 
{Pointing to Rifkele.) If I had a Rabbi for a 
son, I'd choose her for his bride. 

The Other Women, among themselves. 
Everybody knows it. It's the talk of the 

Just wait till I lead her under the wedding 
canopy, in God's good time. You'll all get a 
whole goose apiece, and a pickerel just out of 
the water, and roubles galore. And if I lie, 
then my name isn 't Yekel Tchaf tchovitch ! 

The Blind Woman 
And I tell you, it's just as if she had been 
brought up in a synagogue, — Heaven pardon 
the word in this place. So pure and modest. . . 
finer than any child of the most respectable 

The Other Women 
Folks will learn all about it. It's the talk of 
the town. 



Yekel, distributing glasses of brandy. Blurts 
out, before he realizes what he is saying. 
Even though her father is Yekel Tchaftcho- 

vitch. . . 

Sarah, giving out glasses. 

Look at the people before whom he must 
■>a st ! 

Yekel, pouring brandy into glasses. With pas- 
sionate unrestraint. 
It makes no difference to me, — poor or rich. 
Let everybody know, — let the whole town 
know. What 7 am, I am. {Points to his ivife.) 
What she is, she is. . . It's all true, — every- 
thing. But let them not breathe a word against 
my daughter. . . And if anyone dares to do so, 
I'll break his head with this bottle here. Even 
if it's the Rabbi himself, it'll make no difference 
to me ! . . . She 's purer than his own daughter. 
(Pointing to his neck.) You may slash my 
throat if that isn't so! 

Sarah, stops passing around the brandy. 

We've heard all that before. . . That's enough. 
{Rubs her hands and goes to a corner for the 
broom.) We must clean the room now for our 
guests. {Turning to the poor folk.) You're not 
offended, I hope? 

The Poor People 
Not at all, hostess. May happiness and joy 



be yours forever. . . {They leave the room singly , 
littering profuse blessings. Yekel, hehind his 
wife's back, throws them more food. The last 
tvoman speaks to Bifkele, loud e^iough for the 
others to hear.) Go, Rifkele, and prepare the 
robe for the Holy Scroll. Reb AH will soon 
come, and the Scribe, too. {Rifkele goes into 
her room.) 

Sarah, sweeping the floor. 
To think that he had to boast before such 
people ! I tell you ! . . . And otherwise, do you 
imagine, they wouldn't have come to you? 
Make a celebration every day, and every day 
you'll have them here. In respectable houses 
people know how to act so that they'll be looked 
up to. What do you think, — they're all like 
you, with your "Hello, good brother!" right 
away? What kind of host are you, anyway? 


Do you expect respectable folks to come to 
your home? Have you forgotten who you are, 
perhaps ? 


''Who you are!" What! Have you stolen 
anything? You have a business. Everybody 
has his own business. You don't compel any- 
body, do you ? You may deal in what you please, 
can't you, if you yourself do no wrong? . . . Just 
try to give them some money, and see whether 
they'll take it from you or not! 



They'll take it from you, all right, but they'll 
look upon you as a dog, just the same. . . And 
at the synagogue you'll have the back seat, and 
they'll never call you up to the altar, to read 
from the Holy Book. 


Do you really believe that they're any better 
than you? You don't need their favors! . . . 
That's the way of the world these days: if 
you've got the money, even so pious a Jew as 
Eeb Ali comes to your home, — a Pietist,* 
mind you, — and accepts handsome alms from 
you. He asks no questions, — whether you got 
it by theft or by murder. So long as you have 
the cash. That's the chief point! 


Don't climb too high, Sarah. Do you hear? 
Not too high. . . For if you do, some fine day 
you'll fall and break your neck. (Shakes a warn- 
ing finger at her.) And don't try to break into 
the upper crust. Don't, I tell you. You've a 
home of your own, — stay there. You've got 
bread, — eat. But don't intrude where you're 
not wanted. . . Every dog must know his own 
kennel. (Leaving the table, with a gesture of ap- 
prehension.) The whole business is beginning to 

* 'Khossid.' The 'Khassidim' are noted for the religious 
frenzy of their worship. 



make me uneasy. . . I'm afraid that this will 
bring the doAvnfall of our hopes. . . 

Sarah, stops her tvorJc, placing her arms akimbo. 
And you 're a man ! Shame yourself ! I 'm 
only a woman, but I can say to myself, ''The 
past is gone forever. ' ' Whiz ! Flown away ! . . . 
There's nobody to be ashamed of. The whole 
world isn't any better. Why, if it were, people 
would have to go about with their heads bowed 
to the earth. {Coyning nearer to him.) In a little 
while you'll have money. You close up shop 
and not a rooster crows. . . Who needs to know 
what we were? 

Yekel, meditatively. 
That would be best. . . {Pause.) To buy a 
pack of horses and smuggle them across the bor- 
der, just like Eisikl Furman did. . . And become 
a respectable person. . . not have people eye you 
like a thief. 

Sarah, considering the matter. 
Just the same it's too bad to go out of our 
business. . . You'll never make such good money 
from your horses. Here, at least, it's all cash. 

That's certainly so. 

Sarah, goes into the next room, returns with a 

tray of plates and begins to arrange them upon 

the table. 



And just see what a daughter we have. Thank 
God, more decent than all the daughters of the 
best families in town. She'll marry some highly 
esteemed fellow, raise a respectable family. . . 
Isn't that so? Then what's wrong? 

Yekel, arising. 

Yes, with an example like you as her guide. 
Go, let Manke steal up to her from downstairs. . . 
Have her here, in this room, all the time ! 


Just see how he 's carrying on ! I once asked 
Manke to teach Rifkele how to embroider on 
canvas. Rifkele 's a young lady, you must re- 
member. Has she any companions at all? You 
don't let her step out into the street. . . (Pause.) 
If you don't want her to have anything to do 
with Manke, then she won't. 


No, I don't want her to! Do you hear? I 
don't! I don't want my home to mix with 
downstairs. (Points to the cellar.) My home 
must be kept apart from that place ! Under- 
stand? Just like pure and impure!* Below 
(Indicating the cellar.) is a brothel, and here 
lives a pure girl, worthy of marrying the best 
of men. Do you hear ? (Bangs his fist upon the 
table.) A pure, virtuous maiden lives here! 

* Cf. previous note on 'trayf and 'kosher.' 



Keep the two places apart! . . . {Footsteps are 
heard outside,) 

All right. Just as you say. Only don't make 
such a racket. {Listening.) Hush. People are 
coming. It's Reb Ali. {She thrusts her hair 
hack underneath her wig and pulls off her apron. 
Yekel strokes his heard and straightens his coat. 
Both stand hij the door, expectantly. . . The 
door opens wide. Enter Shloyme and Hindel. 
The first is a tall, sturdy chap; wears long hoots 
and a short coat. He is a knavish fellow, whose 
eyes hlink with stealthy cunning as he speaks. 
The second is a rather old girl, with a wan face 
and wearing clothes much too young for her 
years. Shloyme and Hindel are evidently at 
ease and feel at home.) 

Yekel, to Sarah. 
Take a look at these guests of mine, will you ? 
{To Shloyme.) I do no business here. Down 
below. Everything down below. {Pointing to 
the cellar.) I'll be down right away. 

What's the hurry to get rid of us? Are you 
already ashamed of our company? 

Well, what have you got to say for yourself? 




You're having a celebration today, aren't 
you? So we came in to wish you good luck. 
Old friends. . . eh, what? 

Look at our ''old friends," will you? 

That was all once upon a time. From today 
on, — all over! You want to talk business 
with me? All right. But everything down- 
stairs. {Indicating the haseme7it.) Here I 
don't know you, nor do you know me, — from 
now on. You're welcome to a glass of brandy. 
{Pours out brandy.) But be quick. Somebody 
might come. 

Shloyme, taking his glass, speaks to Hindely 

You see? It's a great thing to get married. 
You become a somebody, on a par with every- 
body else. And you have Scrolls of the Law 
written. Not like us chaps, us scamps. (To 
Yekel.) Yes, and I've really taken an example 
from you and have today become engaged to 
this thing here. {Points to Hindel.) She'll 
make a dandy housewife, eh ? You '11 see. She '11 
put on a wig and she'll be the living image of a 
Rabbi's wife. As true as we're alive. . . 




May I always hear such good news! So! 
You're engaged, are you? And when will the 
wedding take place, — may it be with luck ! 


Just see with whom he's stopped to talk! It 
really becomes him ! With outcasts, God for- 
give my words. Reb Ali and the Scribe will be 
here at any moment! 


When '11 the wedding take place, you ask? 
When does one of our kind ever have a wedding ? 
When we'll get a couple of girls we'll get mar- 
ried and open a house of our own. What else 
can one of us become? Certainly not a Rabbi. 
But the girls must be something fine, — first 
class. Fiery and hot-blooded. {Winking to 
Yekel.) Otherwise it doesn't pay. 


And what do you want of me, I'd like to 


What do I want of you? A mere trifle. 
(Points to Hindel.) She's your woman, isn't 
she? And she's my sweetheart. She has a 
claim upon you. (Takes from Hindel her wage- 
hook.) From this day on you'll have to deal 



with me. Today I ask a mere bagatelle. Ten 
roubles, on this book. {Slaps the hook.) It's 
good money, safe money. (Looking at Hindel.) 
She wants to buy herself a hat. 

All that downstairs. Down below. I'll be 
down soon and we'll transact all business down 
there. Here I don't even know you. Here I 
do no business with you at all. 

It's all the same to me. Above or below. 
Downstairs live no strangers, nor upstairs 
either. Same thing. The same devil. 

Get a move on ! Off with you ! Do you hear ? 
— We're expecting people! 

May an evil night descend upon their heads, 
their hands and their feet. They came here to 
spoil our celebration. . . {Looks at Hindel with 
scorn.) It pays to have so much vexation over 
such a slut! 

If I'm not good enough to be one of your 
women, go down into the cellar yourself. 

Shloyme, to Hindel 
Tell her to send her daughter down there. ( To 



Sarah.) Upon my word, you'd do a rushing 


Curse me, — do you hear? {Points to Sa- 
rah.) Curse her, too. We're your kind. But 
don't dare to breathe my daughter's name. 
Understand? {Coming closer to Shloyme.) 
Don't dare to mention her name, or I'll rip 
your bowels open. Do you hear? She doesn't 
know you, and you don't know her! 


Then I will know her. She's the daughter of 
a fellow-tradesman, so we're quite closely re- 

Yekel, seizing Shloyme hy the throat. 

I'll rip your bowels open. . . You may slap my 
face; kick me about, if you will, but don't men- 
tion my daughter 's name ! ( Yekel and Shloyme 
engage in a struggle,) 

Sarah, running over to them. 

A curse has been visited upon me ! There he 
goes, starting a fight with such low-lives ! Some- 
body 's liable to come in at any moment, woe is 
me. Yekel ! — Reb Ali and the Scribe. . . Yekel, 
for God's sake! {Dragging him away from 
Shloyme.) What's come over you? {Heavy 
footsteps are heard outside.) Yekel, Yekel! 



Reb Ali is coming, — the Scribe is here ! This 
is a shame and a disgrace before people! 

Let me go. Right on this spot I'll. . . {Tight- 
ening his grasp upon Shloyme.) 

Reb Ali's Voice 
Right here, Scribe. This is the home of the 
Scroll's donor. {Reh Ali appears in the door- 
way, first thrusting in his large head, with a 
pipe between his teeth.) What's all the noise 
about ? In the home of one who has a Scroll of 
the Law written, all must be joy and happiness. 
Not quarrelling. (To the Scribe outside,) This 
way, please. Scribe. {Yekel, at the sound of 
Reb Ali's voice, releases Shloyme. Sarah runs 
over to Shloyme and thrusts into his hand a 
piece of paper money which she has taken from 
her stocking. She shoves Hindel and Shloyme 
toward the door; the latter two encounter the 
Scribe and Reb Ali on the threshold. The pious 
men stand back from the woman, making way 
for her and Shloyme.) 

Shloyme, to Hindel, as they leave. 
Take a peek at the folks he's hob-nobbing with 
these days. He'll become head of the town be- 
fore long. {They go off, conversing in indistinct 

Reb Ali, a short, corpulent fellow, who speaks 


rapidly, making ingratiating gestures as he does 
so. He appears to be much at home, and evi- 
dently entertains a high opinion of himself. 
I beg your pardon, Scribe; I beg your pardon. 
{Quietly, to Yekel and Sarah.) You ought to 
act more decently. It's high time. People are 
coming and. . . 

The Scribe, enters. A tall old man, whose long, 
thin body is enveloped in a broad overcoat. His 
beard is long, white and sparse. He wears spec- 
tacles and has an air of cold aloofness and mys- 

Reb Ali, pointing to Yekel. 
This is the donor of the Scroll. 

The Scribe, proffering his hand to Yekel, at 
the same time surveying him. 

Greetings. Peace be to you, fellow Jew. 

Yekel, Thrusts out his hand, uncertainly. 
Sarah reverently steps to one side. 

Reb Ali, takes a seat at the table and pushes a 
chair over toward the Scribe. 
Be seated. Scribe. (To Yekel.) Take a seat. 
(The Scribe sits down. Yekel, still uncertain, 
sits doivn opposite him, next to Reb Ali. The 
latter addresses the Scribe.) This is the gentle- 
man on whose behalf I ordered the Holy Scroll. 
{He helps himself to brandy, first pouring out 
a glass for the Scribe.) He has no son, so he 



desires to do honor to the Lord with a Scroll 
of the Law. Such is the custom among the 
people of Israel, — and a very beautiful one, 
too. So we must aid him. . . Your health. 
Scribe. (Gives his hand to the Scribe, then to 
Yekel.) Your health, host. Today you are the 
Master of Festivities. {Yekel stretches out his 
hand, at a loss. Reh Ali drinks, Sarah ap- 
proaches the table and pushes toward Reh Ali 
some jelly preserves. Yekel pulls her by the 
sleeve and signals her to withdraw from the 
table. Reb Ali, after drinking, turns to the 
Scribe.) Drink, Scribe. (To Yekel.) Drink, 
host. Today you must rejoice. God has favored 
you with the means of having a Holy Scroll 
written. It is a divine merit indeed. A very 
great one. 

The Scribe, holding his glass in his hand, to 
Reb Ali, referring to Yekel. 
Who is this man? 

Reb Ali 
What is the difference ? A Jew. . . And if he 
isn 't a learned scholar, must all men be scholars ? 
A Jew wants to earn a divine blessing. Then 
we must befriend him. (To Yekel.) Drink a 
health. Here's joy to you. 

The Scribe 
Will he know how to take care of the Holy 



Reb Ali 
And why not? He is a Jew, isn't he? And 
what Jew doesn't know the holy significance of 
a Scroll? (Drinks.) Your health, your health. 
And may the Lord send His blessings to His 

The Scribe, gives his hand to Yekel. 
Your health, host. (Admonishing him.) And 
know, that a Holy Scroll is a wondrous posses- 
sion. The whole world rests upon a Scroll of the 
Law, and every Scroll is the exact counterpart 
of the tablets that were received by Moses upon 
Mount Sinai. Every line of a Holy Scroll is 
penned in purity and piety. . . Where dwells a 
Scroll, in such a house dwells God himself. . . So 
it must be guarded against every impurity. . . 
Man, you must know that a Holy Scroll. . . 

Yekel, aived; he stammers. 
Rebbi, rebbi*. . . I want to tell the Rebbi the 
whole truth, — the honest truth. . . I am a poor 
sinner. . . Rebbi, I'm afraid. . . 

Reb Ali, interrupting Yekel. To the Scribe. 
The man is a sincere penitent and it is our 
duty to befriend him. The Talmud counsels us 
to. Of course he understands the significance of 

* *Rebbi' is a term usually applied to teachers of Hebrew. It 
is often interchanged with the more dignified 'Rabbi,' 
which means, properly, a doctor of Hebrew law. The 
term 'Reb' is a form of address used by Jews before 
first names only. Cf. the Spanish 'Don.' 



a Holy Scroll. He's a Jew, after all. {To Yekel.) 
You must have reverence for a Scroll of 
the Law. Great reverence, — precisely as if a 
noted Eabbi were under your roof. In the house 
where it resides no profanity must be uttered. 
It must dwell amidst purity. (Speaks to Sarah, 
looking toward her hut not directly at her,) 
Wherever a Holy Scroll is sheltered, there no 
woman must remove the wig from her head. . . 
(Sarah thrusts her hair more securely under 
her wig.) Nor must she touch the Scroll with 
her bare hands. As a reward, no evil overtakes 
the home that shelters a Scroll. Such a home 
will always be prosperous and guarded against 
all misfortune. (To the Scribe.) What do you 
imagine? — That he doesn't know all this? 
They're Jews, after all. . . (Sarah nods affirm- 

The Scribe 
You hear, sir, that the whole world rests upon 
the Scroll. The fate of our race lies rolled up 
in that parchment. With one word, — with a 
single word, God forbid, you can desecrate the 
Law and bring down upon all the Jews a griev- 
ous misfortune, — God forbid. 

Yekel, arising from the table. 

Rebbi, I'll confess everything. . . Rebbi 

(Comes nearer to Reb Ali.) I know that you 

are a holy man. I am not worthy, Rebbi, of 

your presence in this house. . . under my roof. . . 



Rebbi, I am a sinner. She {Pointing to his wife.) 
is a sinner. We have no right to a Holy Scroll. . . 
Inside that room. {Pointing to the door at the 
right.) For her sake, Rebbi. . . {Goes into Rif- 
hele's room and returns, leading her hy the 
hand. She holds a velvet cover of a Scroll, upon 
ivhich she is embroidering a David's shield in 
gold thread.) Rebbi, she {Pointing to Rifkele.) 
may go about a Holy Scroll. She is as pure as 
the Lord's Law itself. It is for her that I or- 
dered it. {Indicating her embroidery.) See, 
Rebbi, she 's embroidering a cover for the Scroll. 
She may, Rebbi, for her hands are pure. I, 
Rebbi, {Striking himself over the heart.) I 
promise not to touch your Holy Law. She 
{Pointing to his wife.) will not touch your Holy 
Scroll. She {Resting his hand upon Rifkele' s 
head.) will carry it. It will be placed in her 
room. {To Rifkele.) And when you are mar- 
ried and leave my roof, take the Scroll of the 
Law with you to your husband's home. . . 

Reb Ali, to Yekel. 
In other words, when you marry off your 
daughter, you'll give her the Holy Scroll as her 
dowry. Isn't that it? 


Reb Ali, when my daughter is married, I'll 

give her as a dowry a pile of money, and I'll 

say to her: ''Go out of your father's house and 

forget. . . forget your father. . . forget your 



mother. . . and have pure children, Jewish child- 
ren, just like every Jewish daughter." That's 
what I'll say to her. 

Reb Ali 
That is, you will present the Holy Scroll as 
a wedding-gift to your son-in-law. That's the 
idea, isn't it? {To the Scribe.) Do you see, 
Reb Aaron, there are still pious Jews in the 
world ; here 's a man with a daughter, and has a 
Scroll of the Law written for her future hus- 
band. . . How beautiful that is, — how virtuous 
... I tell you, Reb Aaron, that the spirit of Is- 
rael, the Jewish spark. . . the. . . ahem. . . ah ! . . 
ah! . . . (Smacking his lips.) 

Yekel, leads Bifkele hack into her room. He 
closes the door after her. 
Rebbi, I can speak plainly to you. We're 
alone. My wife may hear it, too. We are sin- 
ners. I know, God will punish us. Let Him 
punish. That doesn't bother me. Let Him crip- 
ple me, disfigure me ; let Him make me a pauper, 
so that I'll have to go begging from door to 
door. . . Anything but that. . . (More softly.) 
Rebbi, when a man has a son who goes to the 
bad — the devil take him. But a daughter, 
Rebbi. If a daughter falls, it is as if the mother 
had sinned in her grave. So I went to the holy 
synagogue and approached this man (Pointing 
to Beh Ali.) and I said to him: "Give me some- 



thing that'll guard my home from evil.". . . So 
he said to me : " Have a Holy Scroll written and 
place it in your home." Rebbi, as for us, our 
souls belong to the devil anyway. . . For her, 
and in her room I '11 place the Scroll ; for her to 
have as a companion. As for us, we dare not, 
we must not. . . (Beb Ali bends over to the 
Scribe, whispers something to him, making var- 
ious gestures and pointing to Yekel. The latter 
and Sarah stand at the table in tense expectancy. 

The Scribe, after brief consideration. 
And where are the guests in honor of the 
Holy Scroll? 

Reb Ali 

We'll go to the synagogue and gather a quo- 
rum* of Jews. It will be easy enough to find 
men who are willing to honor the Law. (Arises 
from the table, pours brandy into the glasses, 
slapping Yekel on the shoulder.) There, there! 
God will help you! Rejoice, host! The Lord 
befriends the sincere penitent. . . Don't worry. 
You'll marry your girl to some proficient schol- 
ar; you'll take some poor Yeshiva** student for 
a son-in-law, and support him while he sits and 
studies the Holy Law. And the blessings of the 
Law will win you the Lord's forgiveness. 

* 'Minyan'. The quorum of ten males above the age of 

thirteen required for all religious services. 
** 'Yeshiva'. An academy of Hebrew studies. 



(Pause.) I've really been thinking about it, 
and have a certain fellow in view, — a jewel of 
a chap, — smart head on his shoulders. . . his 
father is a highly respected man. {Abruptly.) 
Are you going to give your daughter a large 

Rebbi, take away all I own. I'll let you strip 
me bare. . . Take everything, everything. . . And 
I '11 say to my girl, ' ' Forget your mother. . . for- 
get your father." And I'll send her and her 
husband all they need, in a roundabout way. 
'' Here's your food and drink, keep on studying 
in your holy books. . . I don't know yoa. . . you 
don't know me. . ." 

Reb Ali 
Everything will be all right, in the virtue of 
the Scroll. . . Come, Scribe. Come, host, let's 
be off to the synagogue. We'll hunt out a quo- 
rum and celebrate the Holy Scroll. . . {To the 
Scribe.) Do you see, Reb Aaron? A Jew, even 
if he sins, stiU remains a Jew. A Jewish soul 
— seeks a pious scholar for a son-in-law. . . 
{To Yekel.) Never you mind. Don't worry. 
God will help you. . . The Lord loves a repentant 
sinner. But you must give generous donations 
to the students of the Law. If you cannot study 
the Law yourself, at least support those who 
can, for the whole world rests upon the Holy 
Law. . . {To the Scribe.) Is that not so, Reb 



Aaron? And why not? (Pointing to Yekel.) 
I knew his father. . . He was a fine man. . . a 
teamster. . . handsome chap. . . Believe me, the 
Lord will come to his aid, and he will become a 
Jew as worthy as any other. (To Yekel.) The 
important thing is to repent deep in your heart, 
— that is, you must abandon the path of iniquity 
that you've followed hitherto. . . and you must 
contribute liberally to the support of the stu- 
dents of the Holy Word. 

Yekel, summoning courage, he approaches Reh 
Just let me make a little more money, Reb 
Ali, so that I can give my daughter a handsome 
dowry, and my name isn't Yekel Tchaftchovitch 
if I don 't go out of the business altogether. . I '11 
deal in horses, just as my father did, may his 
soul rest in peace. I'll get together a stable of 
horses and go to the Lovitch fair. And my son- 
in-law will be sitting inside there studying the 
sacred Law. I'll come home for the Sabbath 
and sit down right here and listen to him read- 
ing from the Commentaries. And if I lie, my 
name isn't Yekel. 

Reb Ali 
Don't worry. It's all right. The Lord will 
come to your aid. Yes, God will help you. 
Isn't that so, Reb Aaron? 



The Scribe 

Who can tell? Our Lord is a God of mercy 
and forgiveness, but He is also a God of retri- 
bution and vengeance. (Leaving.) Well, it's 
getting late. Let's be off to the synagogue. 

What did the Rebbi say ? 

Reb Ali 

It's all right. Don't worry. God will help 
you. . . He must help you. . . Come, come and 
take your Holy Scroll home in rejoicing. (Atout 
to depart. Yekel hesitates, undecided. Reh Ali 
notices this.) What? You want to speak a few 
words with your wife, — to tell her to prepare 
for our return with the Scroll? 

Sarah, to Reb Ali. 
Everything's ready, Reb Ali. Everything. 

Reb Ali 

Well, what are you waiting for? The Scribe 
has already gone. 

Yekel, at the door, uncertain, pointing to him- 

I, walk together with the Rebbi, through the 
streets ? 



Reb Ali 

Come, come. If the Lord pardons you, surely 
we may do so, too. 

Yekel, enthusiastically. 
Reb Ali, you're a good Rebbi. (About to em- 
brace Reb Ali; suddenly recalls himself and 
draws back.) A good Rebbi, may I live so ! (Reb 
Ali and Yekel leave together. The evening 
shadows gather.) 

Sarah, betakes herself assiduously to cleaning 
the room and setting the table. Calls into Rif- 
kele's room. 
Rifkele, Rifkele, come in and help me out a 
bit. They'll soon be coming with the Holy 

Rifkele, appears on the threshold of her door, 
Has father left already? 

Yes. He went to the sjmagogue with Reb All 
and the Scribe. The Rabbi will soon be coming, 
and other guests, too. 

RiFKEiiE, showing the cover for the Holy Scroll. 
See how nicely I've embroidered it. 

Yes, yes. I see. But comb your hair. Dress 



yourself. The guests will soon be here. The 
Rabbi and. . . 


I '11 call up Manke and have her comb me. . . I 
love to have her comb me. She does it so beauti- 
fully. Makes my hair so smooth. . . And her 
hands are so cool. {Takes something and taps 
the floor with it, calling.) Manke! Manke! 

Sarah, frightened. 
Rifkele! What are you doing ? Don't! Your 
father will be furious! It isn't becoming for 
you to chum with Manke. You're already a 
marriageable young lady, a virtuous child. And 
we 've just been talking about some good matches 
for you, — excellent matches with learned schol- 
ars. . . 

But I do love Manke so much! 

It's a shame for you to chum with Manke, I 
tell you! You are a decent girl; you'll have 
clean, respectable girls to go around with. . . 
We're arranging a match for you, an excellent 
match. Your father's just gone to see the bride- 
groom, Reb Ali said, . . . (Goes into the next 
room,) We must wash, dress, and put on our 
best clothes. . . The guests will be here at any 




A bridegroom? What kind of bridegroom, 
mamma dear? 

Sarah, from the other room. 
A sweetheart, — a golden one. A wonderful 
student, of a fine family. 

Appears in the doorway at the rear. First 
she thrusts in her head, shaking her finger play- 
fully at Rifkele; Bifkele goes over to her, walk- 
ing cautioicsly backwards, beckoning to her as 
she does so. The room is fast growing dark. 

Rifkele, falls into Manke' s arms. To her 
A handsome sweetheart, mamma dear? 
{Manke kisses her passionately.) 

Sarah, from within. 
Yes, daughter dear. A handsome sweetheart, 
with two jet-black temple-locks and a satin coat, 
and a velvet skull-cap, dressed just like a Rabbi. 
He's a Rabbi's son, Reb Ali said. 

Rifkele, in Manke' s embrace, caressing Manke' s 
And where will he stay, mamma dear? 

Sarah, from within. 
There in your room, where the Sacred Scroll 



will be kept. He'll live there with you and 
study the Holy Law. 

RrPKELE, in Manke's arms. 
And will he love me, mamma dear? 

Sarah, as before. 
Ever so much, daughter dear, ever so much. 
And you'll have pure, respectable children, vir- 
tuous children. . . 

falling as they speak. 



Scene: In the cellar -hrothel. A spacious 
hasement in an old building; low-arched ceil- 
ing; high up on the wall, close to the ceiling, 
two deep, narrow windows, hung with curtains. 
On the sill, flower-pots. The rain is coming in 
through the windows. A flight of stairs leads to 
the door above, which is constructed like that of 
the entrance to a cahin on board ship. Half of 
the door is ajar, revealing the gloom of the 
night. Rain drips down. In the background of 
the cellar, several small compartments, separ- 
ated from one another by thin partitions, and 
screened by thick black curtains. One of the 
curtains has been drawn aside; in the compart- 
ment are seen a bed, a wash-stand, a mirror and 
various toilet articles. A colored night-lamp 
sheds a dim light over the tiny room. The fur- 
niture of the cellar itself consists of several 
lounges, a tahle, benches and card-tables; on the 
walls, looking-glasses bedecked with gaudy orna- 
ments; chromos representing women in sugges- 
tive poses. . . 

On one of the lounges sleeps Shloyme; his 
long boots reach to a nearby bench. It is a 
night in spring. 

The room is lighted by a large hanging-lamp. 


Act II 


Enters. Halts for a moment upon the top 
stair and looks down at Shlayme, She is 
wrapped in a thin shawl, coquettishly dressed in 
a slcirt much too short for her age. Descends 
into the cellar, stepping noisily so as to wake 

Shloyme, awakes. Looks around. 
It's you, is it? Why aren't you outside? 


It's begun to rain. 

Shloyme, sitting up. 
So you deign to answer me, milady? Have 
you, then, forgiven me? 


I wasn't angry in the first place. 

So. . . "Well, if you wish, you can get angry 
again, for all I care. {Lies down.) 

HiNDEL, looks around. Runs over to one of the 
screened compartments and listens, then runs 
hack to Shloyme. 
Shloyme, I don't want to leave this place. 



See, now we're all alone and nobody can hear us. 
Tell me, as truly as there is a God in heaven, — 
tell me, do you really mean to marry me ? 

Go, my grand dame. Make knots in your shirt 
and hide your money there, and then run to 
''Uncle" Yekel and complain that I take all 
your earnings, — that you haven't even enough 
to buy yourself a hat. . . 


Yes, I did tell him that. It made me furious 
and cut me to the quick, — to have you tear the 
very clothes off my back and then go and make 
eyes at that yellow bitch. . . I '11 dash vitriol into 
her face. Why, her breath smells terribly. How 
can anybody get near such a thing? A fine 
young lady he's hunted out! 


Away from me! I'll give you such a crack 
between the eyes that you'll see your great- 
great-granny's ghost! 


Crack away ! Tear strips of skin off my body 
. . . (Pushing up one of her sleeves and showing 
him her arm.) You've covered me with black 
and blue marks. {Baring her other arm.) Here, 
pinch, slash, whatever you will. But tell me, 
here on this very spot, by the memory of your 



father and as truly as you pray for the repose 
of his soul, — will you really marry me? 

Shloyme, still stretched out. 
Once I wanted to. Now I don't. 


Then it's no. That's the way I like to do 
things. Only no deceit. Do you want money? 
— Say the word. A coat? — Here's the price. 
Only no fooling me. (Walks off.) 

That's all right. There are plenty of sweet- 
hearts. You'll catch your fish, all right. 

HiNDEL, drawing aside the curtain of her com- 
Don't give yourself any worry on my account. 

You object, do you? Have it your way. 
(Pause.) But you're not too angry to pour a 
fellow a glass of tea, are you? 

Hindel, fetches him a glass of tea from her 
compartment and places it upon the cellar table. 
She then returns to her place and sits down he- 
fore her trunk of clothes, as if looking for some- 
thing. After a brief silence she addresses 
Shloyme, from her compartment. 

So you like her, eh?. . . Well, well. . . You'll 
soon be busy, all right, — buying towels to pad 



out her flat bosom, paying dentists for putting a 
set of teeth into her jaws, and getting her a 
pair of stilts to make her look human size. 
Then you can hire a barrel-organ and take her 
around people's backyards. A fine hurdy-gur- 
dyman you'd make, upon my word. I'll throw 
you a two-kopeck-piece from the window, I 

Hold your tongue, I tell you! 


And what '11 you do if I don't? 

I'll beat you black and blue. 


Ho, ho! There's no beating folks these days. 
Nowadays a beating is answered with a knife. 

Shloyme, springing to his feet. 
And who'll do that? {Striding into HindeVs 
compartment.) Who'll do the knifing, eh? 
(Ee struggles with her, tearing from her grasp 
a red waist. He returns to the cellar.) Now 
we'll see. {He rips the waist open eagerly. A 
photograph falls to the floor,) Aha! Moyshe 
the locksmith! So that's your champion, is it? 
And since when have you become so thick with 
him? {Goes hack to her room.) 




What business is that of yours? 

This is what business it is of mine! {He 
gives her a hard slap; she falls upon her bed 
and begins to weep.) So you're going around 
with Moyshe the locksmith, are you? Exchang- 
ing photographs, eh? A regular pair of sweet- 
hearts! And all behind my back? {Silence. 
He returns to his table.) And I knew nothing 
about it. . . {Drinks more tea, arises, and mounts 
the stairs.) And I knew nothing about it. . . 
{He stops at the door.) Hindel! {She does 
not answer.) Hindel! Come here this instant! 
{No reply.) Hindel! {He stamps his foot, 
then runs down the flight of stairs in a rage.) 
Come here, I tell you ! Do you hear what I say ! 

Arises from her bed and walks over to him, 
hiding her face in her handkerchief. 

Have you spoken to Manke? 

Hindel, whimpering. 

Well, what does she say? 



HiNDEL, still crying. 
If we'll have our own "house," she'll come 
to us. 


HiNDEL, drying her eyes. 
Yes. But she doesn't want to come alone. 
She wants to bring a chum. 

Certainly. Do you imagine you can make any 
money on one girl, — even enough to pay the 


We ought to have a fresh young girl. . . 

Upon my soul ! Then we 'd do business ! But 
where can we get her? 


I've got my eye on one — as beautiful as the 
day,* and still untouched. 

Shloyme, curious. 
Can we get her for the business? 


I should say! . . . 

* Literally 'as beautiful as a tree.' 



A girl. . . from a ''house"? 


No. A pure maiden. 

How do you come to know her? 


She comes to Manke every night. . . Steals out 
of her home. . . Nobody sees her. Something 
seems to draw her here. . . she is so inquisitive. . . 

RiFKELE, thrusting her tare head through the 
window, Reckoning to Hindel. 
Ps-s-s ! Is my father down there ? 

HiNDEL, signalling hack. 

RiFKELE, disappears from the window. 

Shloyme, eyeing Hindel closely. 
She ! ' ' Uncle ' ' Yekel 's daughter ! A genuine 
gold-mine ! 


Hush ! She 's coming ! 

RiFKELE, slender and heautifid; dressed mod- 
estly, and wrapped in a Mack shawl; steals 
through the door, runs down the stairs with 
tremhling caution. She speaks more with signs 
than with words. 



Where is Manke? There? {Pointing to a 
screened compartment.) There, with. . . t 


Nods ''yes.'' 


Approaches the curtain of Manke' s room and 
listens with passionate intentness, looking 
around every other moment with palpitant ap- 

Shloyme, very softly, to Eindel. 
Tomorrow we must go and take a look at that 
house on Pivna Street. 


And when shall we be married? 

First we've got to have a home. 


I wonder how much the Rabbi will ask for 
performing the ceremony. 

As long as there's enough left to buy some 
furniture with. The place must make a decent 
showing. (The door is suddenly hanged open 
and Yekel hursts in.) 

Yekel, his face still hetrays signs of his cun- 
ning and of his youthful dissipation. He is 



dressed in dignified, orthodox fashion. Re- 
moves his hat and shakes the rain from it. 

A fine business! It has to rain! (Suddenly 
noticing Rifkele, he explodes with rage.) What! 
You here ! (Seizes her hy the collar and shakes 
her, clinching his teeth.) What are you doing 

Rifkele, terrified, stammering. 
Mam. . . Mamma told me. . . to. . . c-eall. . . 
(Bursting into tears.) Papa, don't hit me! 

Your mother. . . your mother sent you. . . 
here! (With a loud outcry.) Your mother! 
(Dragging her upstairs.) She'll lead you to 
ruin yet ! Something draws her to it ! . . . She 
wants her daughter to be what the mother 
was. . . 

Rifkele, crying. 
Papa, don't hit me! 

I'll teach you to mind your father! (Leads 
her out. EifkeWs crying is heard from with- 


There's a virtuous Yekel for you! It doesn't 

become his dignity for his daughter to be a 

brothel- woman. (Through the ceiling is heard a 

noise of angry stamping, and the weeping of a 



woman.) He must be giving it to his wife now, 
all right! Biff! Bang! 


He^s right. A mother should guard her 
daughter well. . . Whatever you were, you were, 
but once you marry and have a child, watch over 
it. . . Just wait. If God should bless us with 
children, I'll know how to bring them up. My 
daughter will be as pure as a saint, with cheeks 
as red as beets. . . I won't let an eye gaze upon 
her. And she'll marry a respectable fellow, 
with an orthodox wedding. . . 

Shloyme, slapping her across the shoulders. 
We'll see about that, all in due season. But 
talk to Rifkele in the meantime. Work upon 
her, I say. Othei'wise everything's lost. 


Don't you worry about my part. I'll know 
how to go about it. 

We'll see, then. (Silence.) If you land her, 
bring her right to me. You know. . . 

Yekel, enters, in anger. 
It's time to close up. It's raining. In any 
case no dog's going to stick his snout into this 
place tonight. (With a sharp look at Shloyme.) 
Enough, enough of this billing and cooing. 
Time to close up. (Mounts the steps, opens the 



door and calls.) Reizel! To bed! Basha! 
Time to go to sleep ! {From without are heard 
girls' voices: ^^Soon. Right away!'') 


Points to Yekel and signals Shloyme to leave. 

Goes up the steps. As he is about to go out he 
comes face to face with Yekel. They eye each 

Get a move on. Time to close up. You've 
whispered secrets long enough. 

Shloyme, thrusting his hands into his trousers 
pocket. Looks sharply at Yekel. 
Since when have you become such a respect- 
able personage? 

Off with you, now. Get a move on. I'll tell 
you later. 

To the devil with you! 

Hestdel, runs up the stairs to Shloyme. 
Shloyme, go home, I tell you. Do you hear? 
Go home! 

Shloyme, leaving, with a defiant glance at 
There's a fine lout for you! 



As if I need him here ! . . . (Pointing to Hin- 
del.) Here! You may take your old carcass 
along with you and start a place of your own. 


People don't open places with old carcasses. 
You merely lie down to rest with them. But 
little dolls. . . 

Yekel, calling into the entry. 
Reizel! Basha! {Enter two girls, running. 
Rain is dripping from their wet, filmy dresses 
and from their unbr aided hair. They are in a 
merry mood and speak with laughter. Yekel 
leaves, slamming the door behind him.) 

Basha, a stout girl, with red cheeks. Naive in 
manner; she speaks with a harsh accent. 

What a sweet odor the rain has! . . . {Shak- 
ing raindrops off her clothes.) Just like the 
apples at home drying, in the lofts. This is the 
first May rain. 


Such a crazy idea: to stand in the rain. As 
if they'll attract the whole world. . . Nobody 'd 
ever show up in a downpour like this. . . ( Goes 
into her compartment and sits down near her 
trunk, packing various articles.) 

Reizel, shaking off raindrops. 
To the deuce with the whole lot of them. I 



paid my account the day before yesterday. . . 
We were standing under the eaves, the rain is 
so fragrant, . . It washes the whole winter off 
your head. ( Goes over to Hindel. ) Just look. . . 
{Showing her wet hair.) How fresh it is. . . 
how sweet it smells. . . 


At home, in my village, the first sorrel must 
be sprouting. Yes, at the first May rain they 
cook sorrel soup. . . And the goats must be graz- 
ing in the meadows. . . And the rafts must be 
floating on the stream. . . And Franek is getting 
the Gentile girls together, and dancing with 
them at the inn. . . And the women must surely 
be baking cheese-cakes for the Feast of Weeks.* 
(Silence.) Do you know what? I'm going to 
buy myself a new summer tippet and go home 
for the holidays. . . {Buns into her room, brings 
out a large summer hat and a long veil; she 
places the hat upon her wet hair and surveys 
herself in the looking-glass.) Just see! If I'd 
ever come home for the holidays rigged up in 
this style, and promenade down to the station. . . 
Goodness! They'd just burst with envy. 
Wouldn 't they ? If only I weren 't afraid of my 
father ! 

Why? Would he hurt you? 

* Pentecost. 



He'd kill me on the spot. He's on the hunt 
for me with a crowbar. Once he caught me 
dancing with Franek at the village tavern and 
he gave me such a rap over the arm with a rod 
{Showing her arm.) that I carry the mark to 
this very day. I come from a fine family. My 
father is a butcher. Talk about the fellows that 
were after me ! . . . {In a low voice.) They tried 
to make a match between me and Nottke the 
meat-chopper. I've got his gold ring still. 
{Indicating a ring upon her finger.) He gave 
it to me at the Feast of Tabernacles.* Maybe 
he wasn't wild to marry me, — but I didn't 
care to. 

Why didn't you care to? 

Because I didn't. . . He always smelled ox 
meat. . . Ugh ! His name is Pshorik. Think of 
marrying Pshorik and having a little Pshorik 
every year! Ugh! 

And how is it any better for you here? 

Here, at least, I'm a free person. I've got 
my chest of finery, and dress swell. Better 
clothes, upon my word, than the rich daughters 

* Succoth. 



of my village. . . {Fetching from her compart- 
ment a hrown dress.) When I go walking on 
Marshalkovski street in this dress they all stare 
at me. . . Fire and flame ! Mm ! If I could only 
put in an appearance in my home town dressed 
in this fashion, here 's how I 'd promenade to the 
station. {Struts across the room like a lady of 
fashion^ raising her skirt at the hack and as- 
suming a cosmopolitan air.) They'd die of 
jealousy, I tell you. . . They'd be stricken with 
apoplexy on the spot. {Promenades about the 
room playing the grand dame.) 

Eeizel, straightens the folds of Bashaws dress in 
the hack and adjusts her hat to a better angle. 
That's the way! Now raise your head a bit 
higher. . . Who needs to know that you were 
ever in a place of this sort? You'll tell them 
that you were with a big business house. A 
Count has fallen in love with you. . . 

HiNDEL, from her room, where she is still busy 
with her chest of clothes. 
And what's the matter with a place of this 
sort, I'd like to know? Aren't we every bit as 
good as the girls in the business houses, eh? 
The whole world is like that nowadays; that's 
what the world demands. In these days even 
the daughters of the best families aren't any 
better. This is our way of earning a living. 
And believe me, when one of us gets married, 



she's more faithful to her husband than any of 
the others. We know what a man is. 

Basha, still strutting about the room. 
Ah ! Do you imagine they wouldn 't recognize 
me right away ? Their hearts would tell them. . . 
You know, my mother died from the shock. . . 
She couldn't live through it. . . To this day I 
haven't visited her grave. . . {Suddenly comes 
to a halt.) Sometimes she comes before me. . . 
At night I see her in my dreams. She appears 
to me in her shroud, covered with thorns and 
briers, because of my sins. And she pulls me 
by the hair. 

Oh, mother! And did you really see her? 
How does she look, your dead mother? Is she 


Shut up, will you? Late at night they have 
to start telling stories about the dead. No dead 
people can come here. Our boss has a Holy 
Scroll upstairs. . . {A sudden hush.) What's 
wrong about our trade, I'd like to know? {She 
leaves her little room and goes into the cellar.) 
Wasn't our mistress in a house like this for fif- 
teen years? Yet she married. And isn't she a 
respectable God-fearing woman ? . . . Doesn 't she 
observe all the laws that a Jewish daughter 
must keep? . . . And isn't her Rifkele a pure 
child? And isn't our boss a respectable man? 



Isn't he generous? Doesn't he give the biggest 
donations to charity? . . . And he's had a Holy 
Scroll written. . . 

But they say that you mustn't read from 
such a Holy Scroll, and that the daughter of 
such mothers become what the mothers them- 
selves were. . . that something draws them on 
like a magnet, and that the Evil Spirit drags 
them down into the mire. . . 

HiNDEL, frightened. 
Who said so? 

An old fortune-teller, — a sorceress told it to 
me. . . it's just as if such a daughter were in 
the power of an enchantment. . . 


That 's a rotten lie ! . . . Where 's the old gypsy 
who told you that ? . . . I 'd scratch her eyes out 
for her ! There is a God in heaven, I say ! We 
have a God in Heaven! 

Manke, steals from her compartment into the 
cellar. She is half-dressed, with a shawl thrown 
over her. Her colored stockings are visible, and 
her hair is in disorder. Her eyes sparkle with 
wanton cunning. Her face is long, and inso- 
lently pretty; she is quite young. A lock of hair 
falls over her forehead. Her eyes hlink as she 



speaks, and her whole body quivers. She looks 
about in surprise. 
What? Nobody here? 

Reizel, to Manke, 
Is it you, Manke? A good thing you came. 
{Pointing to Hindel.) She's almost made a 
Rabbi's wife of me. Where have you left your 

He fell asleep. So I stole out. 

Some generous land-owner, perhaps? Maybe 
he'll stand for the drinks? 

Bah! He's a fool. Third time he's come. 
And he keeps asking me, who's my father, who's 
my mother, — as if he intended to marry me. . . 
Whenever he kisses me he hides his face in my 
bosom, closes his eyes and smiles as if he were a 
babe in his mother's arms. {Looks around. In 
a low voice, to Hindel.) Hasn't Rifkele been 
here yet? 

Hindel, with a soft laugh. 
She was here. . . and her father caught her. . . 
and maybe he didn't raise a rumpus. . . 

Good heavens! How long since? 




Quite a while ago. . . He must be asleep by 
now. {Softly.) She'll surely be down again 

Reizel, to Manke, in a merry mood. 
Come, Manke, let's go out into the street. It's 
raining. The drops are like pearls. . . The first 
May shower. Who's coming out with me for a 
rain bath? 

Manke, approaching the window. 
It's raining. And what a thin drizzle. And 
how sweet it smells. . . Let's go out. 

At home when we have a shower like this the 
gutters run over and flood the narrow lanes. 
And we take off our shoes and stockings and 
dance in the rain barefoot. . . Who's going to 
take her shoes off? {Removes her shoes and 
stockings.) Take off your shoes, Manke, and 
let's dance in the rain! 

Manke, removes her stockings and lets down 
her hair. 
There ! Now let the rain soak us from head to 
foot. . . Standing in a May shower makes you 
grow. Isn't that so? 

Basha, runs over. 
Come. Let's splash each other. . . Let's sprin- 
kle handfuls of raindrops over each other. {She 



lets down her hair.) Let's drench our hair just 
like the trees. . . Come! 


Wait. Wait. ''Uncle" isn't asleep yet. He 
might hear us. {All listen, their ears directed 
to the ceiling.) 

Come along ! Can 't you hear him snoring ? 


Wait. . . We'll tap softly for Rifkele. {Basha 
and Beizel go out. . Manke takes a stick and taps 
in a corner of the ceiling, very softly. From 
outside comes the noise of the girls skipping 
about in the water. They take handfuls of 
raindrops and throw them in through the open 
door, calling ^*Come out! Come out!") 

Rifkele, thrusts her head through the window. 
She is in her night clothes, covered by a light 
shawl. She whispers cautiously. 

Manke, Manke. Did you call me ? 

Manke, takes a chair and places it under the 
window; stands upon it and reaches to Bifkele's 
hand. : ai 

Yes, Rifkele. I called you. . . Come, we'll 
stand in the May rain, splash water over each 
other and grow taller. . . 



RiFKELE, from above. 
Hush ! Speak more softly. I stole out of bed. 
So that pa wouldn't hear. I'm afraid, — that 
he'll beat me. 

Don't be afraid of your father. He won't 
wake up so soon. Come, let's rather stand in 
the rain. I'll let your hair down. {She undoes 
Rifkele's braids, reaching through the window 
to do so.) There. And now I'll wash them for 
you in the rain. Just like this. 


I have only a nightgown on. All night I lay 
in bed waiting for my father to fall asleep, so 
that I might steal out to you. I heard your 
tapping and sneaked away. So softly, barefoot, 
— so that my father shouldn't hear me. 

Maxke, embraces her passianately. 
Come, Rifkele, I'll wash your eyes in the 
rainwater. The night is so beautiful, the rain 
is so warm and the air is so full of delightful 
fragrance. Come. 


Hush. . . hush. . . I 'm afraid of my father. . - 
He beat me. . . He locked the door. . . And hid 
the key near the Holy Scroll. I lay awake all 
night. . . I heard you call me. . . You called me 
so softly. . . And something drew me so irresist- 
ibly to you. . . and I stole the key from the 



Scroll. . . My heart pounded so wildly. . . so 
wildly. . . 

Wait, Rifkele, I'm coming right out to you. 
{Jumps down from the chair and runs up the 
stairs. ) I 'm coming out to you. Just a moment 
and I'm with you. {She leaves. Rifkele disap- 
pears from the window.) 

HiNDEL, from the curtain of her compartment 
she has been listening very intently to the con- 
versation between Manke and Rifkele. She now 
begins to pace up and down the cellar excitedly, 
wrapt in thought and muttering to herself 
very slowly. 

With God's help, if I can only get both of 
them, Rifkele and Manke, this very night. . . I '11 
take them directly to Shloyme 's. . . And I '11 say 
to him, "Here you are. . . Here's your bread 
and butter. Now rent a place, marry me, and 
become a respectable man as well as any other. ' ' 
{Stops abruptly. Raises her hands toward the 
ceiling.) Father in Heaven, you are a Father 
to all orphans. . . Mother in your grave, pray for 
me. . . Let my troubles come to an end. Let me 
at last be settled in my own home ! . . . {Pause.) 
If God is only good to me, I'll have a Holy 
Parchment written in His honor. . . And every 
Sabbath I'll give three pounds of candles to 
the House of Study. {A long pause. She is 
lost in the contemplation of her future pros- 



pects,) Yes, he is a good God. . . a good God. . . 
Father in Heaven. . . Mother, pray in my be- 
half. . . don't be silent. . . pray for me. . . do 
your very best for me. . . (She returns to her 
compartment and begins hastily to pack her 
things.) I can be ready, anyway. {A long 
pause. The stage is empty. Soon Manke leads 
in Rifkele. They are both wrapped in the same 
wet shawl. . . Their hair is dripping wet. Large 
drops of water fall from their clothes to the 
floor. They are barefoot. . . Hindel, behind her 
curtain, listens as before.) 

Manke, speaks with restrained passion and love, 
— softly, but with deep resonance. 

Are you cold, Rifkele darling? Nestle close to 
me. . . Ever so close. . . Warm yourself next to 
me. So. Come, let's sit down here on the 
lounge. (Leads Rifkele to a lounge; they sit 
down.) Just like this. . . Now rest your face 
snugly in my bosom. So. Just like that. And 
let your body touch mine. . . It's so cool. . . as if 
water were running between us. (Pause.) I 
uncovered your breasts and washed them with 
the rainwater that trickled down my arms. 
Your breasts are so white and soft. And the 
blood in them cools under the touch, just like 
white snow, — like frozen water. . . and their 
fragrance is like the grass on the meadows. 
And I let down your hair so. . . (Buns her fin- 
gers through RifkeWs hair.) And I held them 
like this in the rain and washed them. How 



sweet they smell. . . Like the rain itself. .. {She 
huries her face in Rifkele's hair.) Yes, I can 
smell the scent of the May rain in them. . . So 
light, so fine. . . And fresh. . . as the grass on 
the meadows. . . as the apple on the bough. . . So. 
Cool me, refresh me with your tresses. {She 
washes her face in Rifkele^s hair.) Cool me, — 
so. But wait. . . I'll comb you as if you were a 
bride. . . a nice part and two long, black braids. 
{Does so.) Do you want me to, Rifkele? Do 


Rifkele, nodding. 

You'll be the bride. . . a beautiful bride. . . It's 
Sabbath eve and you are sitting with your papa 
and mamma at the table. . . I — I am your 
sweetheart. . . your bridegroom, and I've come 
as your guest. Eh, Rifkele? Do you like that 

Yes, I do. 

Rifkele, nodding. 

"Wait, now; wait. Your father and mother 
have gone to sleep. The sweethearts meet here 
at the table. . . We are bashful. . . Eh ? 

Rifkele, nodding. 
Yes, Manke. 



Then we come closer to one another, for we 
are bride and bridegroom, you and I. We em- 
brace. {Places her arm around Bifkele.) Ever 
so tightly. And kiss, very softly. Like this. 
(Kisses Rifkele.) And we turn so red, — we're 
so bashful. It's nice, Rifkele, isn't it? 

Yes, Manke. . . Yes. 

Manke, lowering her voice, and whispering into 
Bifkele' s ear. 
And then we go to sleep together. Nobody 
sees, nobody hears. Only you and I. Like this. 
(Clasps Bifkele tightly to herself.) Do you 
want to sleep with me tonight like this? Eh? 

Rifkele, looking al)out nervously, 
I do. . . I do. . . 

Manke, drawing Bifkele closer. 
Come. . . Come. . . 

Rifkele, softly. 
I 'm afraid of my father. He '11 wake up and. . 

Wait, Rifkele, wait a second. (Befiects for a 
moment.) Do you want to go away from here 
with me? We'll be together days and nights at 
a time. Your father won't be there, nor your 
mother. . . Nobody '11 scold you. . . or beat you. . . 



We'll be all by ourselves. . . For days at a 
time. . . We'll be so happy. What do you say, 

RiFKELE, closing her eyes. 
And my father won't know? 

No. We'll run away this very night, — with 
Hindel, to her house. . . She has a house with 
Shloyme, she told me. You'll see how nice 
everything will be. . . Young folks will be there 
aplenty, — army officers. . . and we'll be to- 
gether, all by ourselves, all day long. We'll 
dress just like the officers and go horseback-rid- 
ing. Come, Rifkele, — do you want to ? 

Rifkele, tremhling with excitement. 
And papa won't hear? 

No, no. He won't hear. He's sleeping so 
soundly. . . There, can't you hear him snoring? 
. . . (Runs over to HindeUs compartment and 
seizes Hindel hy the arm.) Have you got a 
place ? Come ! Take us away at once ! 

Hindel, waking tvith a start. 
Yes, yes. To Shloyme 's, right away! {She 
throws a dress over Rifkele.) He'll find us a 
place quickly enough. 

Manke, hastily dressing Rifkele. 
You'll see how nice everything '11 be. . . What 



a jolly time we'll have. (All dress, seizing what- 
ever they happen to lay hands upon. Slowly 
they ascend the steps. At the door they encoun- 
ter Reizel ayid Basha who, drenched to the skin, 
are just returning to the cellar. Beizel and 
Basha look at the others in surprise.) 

Eeizel and Basha, together. 
What's this? Where are you going? 

Hush! Don't make any noise. We're going 
for some beer, — and lemonade. , . {Hindel, 
Manke and Rifkele leave, followed by the 
amazed glances of Reizel and Basha.) 

There's something suspicious about this that 
I don't like. 

Same here. 

Something's up. . . Good heavens! 

Basha, stares at Reizel in fright. 
What? You mean thatf 


It's none of our business. Let's put out the 

lamp and go to sleep. We know nothing about 

it. (Turns down the wick of the lamp. The 

stage is bathed in gloom. The girls go to their 



respective compartments.) That fortune-teller 
was certainly right, I tell you. She certainly 
was right! . . . {She disappears. For a mo- 
ment the stage is empty and in darkness.) 

Basha, comes running ivildly from her room, 
with a hysterical outcry. She is in night clothes. 

Reizel, thrusting aside the curtain of her com- 
What's the matter, Basha? 


I'm afraid to go to sleep. I feel that the 
ghost of my mother, with her thorns and her 
briers, is hovering about my room. 

The Holy Scroll in the room above has been 
defiled. We have no one to shield us now! 

I'm afraid this is going to be a terrible night. 
My heart's thumping. {Suddenly, from above, 
a din is heard. There is a scraping of chairs 
and tahles. The girls, eyes distended with fear, 
listen intently. Soon there is the sound of some- 
thing heavy falling ^own the outside stairs.) 

Yekel, outside. 
Rifkele, Rifkele ! Where are you ? 

Reizel, to Basha. 
Let's lie down in our beds and pretend we're 



fast asleep. . . We know nothing at all, remem- 
ber! {Both go to their heds and feign deep 

Yekel, rushes into the cellar^ a burning candle 
in his hand. His hair is in disorder. Over his 
nightshirt he has thrown a coat. He shouts 
wildly.) Rifkele! Rifkele! Is Rifkele here? 
(No reply. He tears the curtains of the com- 
partments violently aside.) Rifkele! Where is 
she? (Waking Reizel and Basha.) Where is 
Rifkele! Rifkele! Where is she? 

Reizel and Basha, ruhhing their eyes with their 
sleeves, as if awakened from sound sleep. 
What? ... We don't know. 

You don't know? . . . You don't know? . . . 
(Rushes up the stairs, almost at a single hound. 
Goes out. Pause. There is a sound outside of 
something falling down the stairs. The door is 
sicddenly hanged open and Yekel stumbles in, 
dragging Sarah by the hair. Both are in night 
attire. Yekel pulls Sarah doivnstairs by the 
hair. Points to the cellar.) Where is your 
daughter? Your daughter, — where is she? 
(Basha and Reizel huddle close to the wall, 
trembling with terror.) 



Scene: Same as Act I. The cupboard and 
the bureau have been knocked out of place. 
Clothes and linen are strewn about the floor. 
The door to Rifkele's room is open, and from 
ivithin the light of a candle comes across the 
stage. Sarah, her hair dishevelled and her 
clothes in disarray, is going about the room 
picking up the things that lie scattered about. 
She packs them into a bundle, as if preparing 
to leave, yet eventually puts most of the articles 
back into their proper places. 

It is early morning. Through the closed shut- 
ters penetrates the gray light of coming day. 


Act III 


Yekel! What's the matter with you, Yekel? 
{Goes over to the door of Bifkele's room and 
looks inside.) Why are you sitting there like 
that? {Turns hack and continues to collect the 
scattered things.) What a misfortune! He 
wants to bring the whole house to ruin. {Re- 
turns to Rifkele 's door. ) Yekel ! Why are you 
so silent? What's come over you? {Turns 
hack, tearfully.) Did you ever see? A person 
sits down before the Holy Scroll and thinks and 
thinks. What is there to think about? A mis- 
fortune has befallen us. Go to the police, see 
the captain. . . Seek out the man by hook or 
crook. . . There is yet time. {Returns to the 
door.) Why don't you say something? {She 
sits down upon a hundle of clothes near the 
door, huries her face in her hands and hegins to 
iveep.) He sits there like a madman, staring at 
the Holy Scroll and mumbling. He neither sees 
nor hears. What on earth can have possessed 
him? {Arises. To Yekel.) It makes no differ- 
ence to me, — one place or another. If you 
want me to leave, all right. I'll go. The devil 
won't take me. . . I'LL earn my bread, all right, 
wherever I may be. {Resumes her packing, 
silently. Pause.) 

[71] . . 


Yekel, enters from Bifkele's room. He is with- 
out hat or coat; his hair is in disorder. His 
eyes have a wild glare, and he speaks slowly, 
with a subdued, hoarse voice, 

I'll go. . . You'll go. . . Rifkele wiU go. . . 
Everything and everybody will go. . . {Point- 
ing to the hrothel.) Down into the cellar. . . 
God won't have it otherwise. . . 

Yekel, what's possessed you? Have you gone 
crazy? {Approaching him.) Consider what 
you're doing. A misfortune has befallen us. 
Agreed. To whom don't misfortunes happen? 
Come. Let us hunt out Shloyme. We'll give 
him two or three hundred roubles and let him 
give us back our child. He '11 do it, all right. . . 
"Well, what are you sitting there moping about? 
What's the matter with you? 

Yekel, in the same hoarse voice, as he paces 
ah out the room. 
It's all the same to me now. My soul is given 
over to the devil. Nothing will help. It's no 
use. God won't have it. . . {He stops before 
the window and peers through an interstice of 
the shutter.) 

God won't have it, you say? You've merely 
talked yourself into that! It's you that won't 
have it. Do you love your daughter ? Yekel ! 



Yekel! {Dragging him away from the win- 
doiv.) Wiiat's come over you? Act while there 
is yet time ! He might take her off somewhere 
while we're wasting time here. Let's be off to 
him at once. Hindel must surely have taken 
her to him. What are you standing there for? 
{Abruptly.) I've sent for Reb Ali. We'll 
hear what he has to say. {Pause. Yekel still 
peers through the shutter spaces.) What are 
you staring at there ? {Pause.) WTiy don't you 
say something? Good heavens, its enough to 
drive a woman insane ! {Turns away and hursts 
into tears.) 

Yekel, pacing about the room as before. 
No more home. . . No more wife. . . no more 
daughter. . . Down into the cellar. . . Back to 
the brothel. . . We don't need any daughter now 
. . . don't need her. . . She's become what her 
mother was. . . God won't have it. . . Back to 
the cellar. . . Down into the brothel ! 

So you want to go back to the cellar? — Into 
the cellar, then! Much I care! {Resumes her 
packing.) He wants to ruin us completely. 
What has come over the man? {For a moment 
she is absorbed in reflection.) If you're going 
to stand there like a lunatic, I'll get busy my- 
self! {Takes off her diamond ear-rings.) I'll 
go over to Shlo3rme's and give him my diamond 
ear-rings. {From her bundle she draws out a 



golden chain.) And if he holds back, I'll add a 
hundred rouble note. {She searches YeheVs 
trousers pocket for his pockethook. He offers no 
resistance.) Within fifteen minutes {Throwing 
a shawl over her shoulders.) Rifkele will be 
here. {As she leaves.) Shloyme will do that 
for me. {Slams the door behind her.) 

Yekel, walks about the room, his head bowed. 

It's all the same to me now. . .The devil got 
her, too. No more daughter. . . No more Holy 
Scroll. . . Into the brothel with everything. . . 
Back to the brothel. . . God won't have it. . . 
{Long pause. Beizel appears at the door, 
thrusting in her head. Steals into the room and 
stops near the entrance. Yekel notices her, and 
stares at her vacantly.) 

Reizel, stammering. 

I went for Reb Ali. Your wife sent me. 
He'll be here soon. 

Yekel, with the same empty stare. 

The devil has won her, anyway. No use now. 
Too late. God won't have it. 

She was such a nice girl. What a shame ! 

Eyes her with amazement. 


Reizel, apologizing. 
Your wife told me to wait here until she 
came back. 

Don't be afraid. I haven't gone insane yet. 
Not yet. God has punished me. 

Who could ever have expected such a thing? 
She was such a pure child. Oh ! what a heart- 
breaking pity ! As true as I live. . . 

Reb Ali, enters, carrying a lantern. 
What's happened, that you had to call me 
before daybreak? {Going to the window and 
peering through the shutter spaces.) It's al- 
most time for the morning prayers. 

Yekel, not looking at Reh Ali. 
The Holy Scroll has been violated, Reb Ali. 
Desecrated most foully. 

Reb Ali, frightened. 
What are you saying? God forbid, the whole 
town will have to atone for the sin! What has 
happened? Speak, man! Good Lord in Hea- 

Down into the brothel. . . {Pointing below. 
Then to Reizel.) Down below, with the rest of 



them. Down into the brothel. No more Holy 

Keb Ali 
Man! What words are these! What's hap- 
pened here? Speak! 

Keizel, at the door. Reassuring Reh Ali. 

No, Rebbi. Not the Holy Scroll. His daugh- 
ter. . . Rifkele. The Holy Scroll is undefiled. 
(Points to Rifkele's room.) Still in there. 

Reb Ali, tvith a sigh of relief. 
Blessed be His name. But are you sure that 
the Scroll is undefiled? 

Yes, Rebbi. 

Reb Ali, more calmly, spitting out. 
Blessed be His Name. I feel easier on that 
score. (To Yekel.) What made you talk such 
nonsense? {To Reizel, without looking at her.) 
Did she go away? Isn't she back yet? {To 
Yekel.) Has anybody gone to look for her? 

My daughter is holier to me than a Holy 

Reb Ali 
Don't talk nonsense. Just keep quiet and 
don't make any scenes. Has anybody gone yet 
to look for her? To bring her back? Well? 



What are you standing there for, instead of go- 
ing after her ? 

My mistress went to get her. 

Reb Ali 
Do they know where the girl went ? 

Yes. The mistress will soon fetch her home. 

Reb Ali 

Fine! Then what's all this commotion about? 
The whole town will know all about it before 
long. Such things should be kept dark. They're 
not nice. If a prospective father-in-law ever 
got wind of the story, her dowry would have 
to be raised a couple of hundred roubles. . . 


It's all the same to me now. Let everybody 
know. No more daughter. . . No more Holy 
Scroll. . . Into the cellar. Into the brothel with 

Reb Ali 

Fie! You're out of your head altogether. 
True, a misfortune has befallen you. May 
Heaven watch over aU of us. Well? What? 
Misfortunes happen to plenty of folks. The 
Lord sends aid and things turn out all right. 
The important point is to keep it a secret. 
Hear nothing. See nothing. Just wash your 



hands clean of it and forget it. {To Reizel.) 
Be careful what you say. Don't let it travel 
any further, God forbid. Do you hear? ( Turns 
to Yekel, who is staring vacantly into space.) I 
had a talk with. . . (Looks around to see wheth- 
er Reizel is still present. Seeing her, he stops. 
After a pause he begins anew, more softly, look- 
ing at Reizel as a hint for her to leave.) With 
er, er. . . (Casts a significant glance at Reizel, 
who at last understands, and leaves.) I had a 
talk with the groom's father. I spoke to him be- 
tween the afternoon and evening prayers, at 
the synagogue. He's almost ready to talk busi- 
ness. Of course I gave him to understand that 
the bride doesn't boast a very high pedigree, 
but I guess another hundred roubles will fix 
that up, all right. Nowadays, pedigrees don't 
count as much as they used to. With God's 
help I'll surely be here this Sabbath, with the 
groom's father. We'll go down to the Dayon* 
and have him examine the young man in his 
religious studies. . . But nobody must get wind 
of this tale. It might spoil everything. The 
father comes of a fine family and the son car- 
ries a smart head on his shoulders. There, there. 
Calm yourself. Trust in the Lord and every- 
thing will turn out for the best. With God's 
help I am going home to prepare for the morn- 
ing prayer. And as soon as the girl returns, 
notify me. Remember, now. (About to go.) 

* Assistant to the Rabbi, and usually well versed in religious 



Yekel, arises and grasps Beb Ali's arm. 
Listen to me, Rebbi. Take your Holy Scroll 
along with you. I don't need it any more. 

Reb Ali, thunderstruck. 
What are you talking about? What has pos- 
sessed you? Have you gone stark mad? 

My daughter has gone to a brothel. The 
Scroll has been desecrated. God has punished 

Reb Ali, trying to interrupt him. 
What are you raving about? 

I am a woeful sinner. I know it well. He 
should have broken my feet beneath me, — or 
taken away my life in its prime. But what did 
He want of my daughter? My poor, blameless 
daughter ? 

Reb Ali 
Hear me. You mustn't talk like that against 
the Lord. 

Yekel, excited. 
And why not ? I may speak everything. It 's 
the truth. Yes, I am Yekel Tchaftchovitch, all 
right. The ''Uncle" of a brothel. But the 
truth I may speak even to God. I'm afraid no 
longer. I went into the House of Study to you. 



I told you everything. So you advised me to 
have a Holy Scroll written. In there I placed 
it, — in her room. I stood before it night 
after night, and used to say to it, **You are 
really a God. You know everything I do. You 
will punish me. Very well. Punish me. Pun- 
ish my wife. We have both sinned. But my 
poor, innocent daughter. Guard her. Have pity 
upon her!'* 

Reb Ali 
But no evil has befallen her. She will return. 
She will yet make a fine pious Jewish wife. 

No use. . . The devil has won her. She'll be 
drawn to it. Once she has made a beginning. . . 
she'll not stop. . . If not today, tomorrow. The 
devil has won her soul. I know. Yes, I know 
only too well. 

Reb Ali 
Don't speak folly, I tell you. Calm yourself. 
Pray fervently for the Lord's pardon. Give up 
this business of yours. With God's help your 
daughter will yet marry just like aU Jewish 
women, and bring you plenty of happiness. 

Too late, Rebbi. Too late. If only she had 
died in her childhood, I should have nothing to 
complain about. . . Then I 'd know she was dead, 
— that I had buried an innocent creature. . . I 
would visit her grave and say to myself, ''Here 



lies your child. Even if you yourself are a 
sinner, here lies a pure daughter of yours, a 
virtuous child. ' ' But as it is, what is left me on 
earth? I myself am a sinner. I leave behind 
me sinful offspring. And so passes sin from 
generation to generation. 

Reb Ali 
Don't speak like that. A Jew must not utter 
such things. Trust in the Lord, and say ''The 
past is dead and gone." 

Yekel, interrupting. 
Don't try to console me, Rebbi. I know that 
it's too late. Sin encircles me and mine like a 
rope around a person's neck. God wouldn't 
have it. But I ask you, Rebbi, why wouldn't 
He have it? What harm would it have done 
Him if I, Yekel Tchaftchovitch, should have 
been raised from the mire into which I have 
fallen? {He goes into Rifkele's room, carries 
out the Sacred Parchment, raises it aloft and 
speaks.) You, Holy Scroll, I know, — you are 
a great God ! For you are our Lord ! I, Yekel 
Tchaftchovitch, have sinned. {Beats his hreast 
with his closed fist.) My sins. . . my sins. . . 
Work a miracle, — send down a pillar of fire to 
consume me. On this very spot, where I now 
stand ! Open up the earth at my feet and let it 
swallow me! But shield my daughter. Send 
her back to me as pure and innocent as when 
she left. I know. . . to You everything is pos- 



sible. Work a miracle! For You are an al- 
mighty God. And if You don't, then You're 
no God at all, I tell j^ou. I, Yekel Tchaftchov- 
itch, tell You that You are as vengeful as any 
human being. . . 

Reb Ali, jumps up and snatches the Parchment 
from YeheVs grasp. 
Do you realize whom you are talking to? 
{Looks at him sternly , then takes the Scroll 
hack to Rifkele's room.) Implore pardon of 
the Holy Scroll! 

The truth may be spoken even before God's 
very face! {Follows Beh Ali into Rifkele's 
room.) If He's a true God, then let Him reveal 
His miracle here on this very spot! 

Sarah, runs in excitedly. Hastens over to the 
mirror and begins to arrange her hair with her 
hands. Calls. 

Come in, Shloyme. Why do you remain out- 

Shloyme, from without. 
Where is Yekel? Let him know {Comes in.) 
that I'll do anything for one of our brotherhood. 
Even if he did insult me. 

Sarah, runs over to Rifkele's door. Locks it, 
leaving Yekel and Reb Ali inside. 
Let him stay there. {Smiling.) These last 



few days he's turned into a saint. . . Seeks the 
company of pious Jews. (Runs over to the en- 
trance door and locks it.) And what a bride 
you have picked out! Such a pest your Hindel 
is, I must say ! You can 't shake yourself rid of 
her! She trails after you as if you already be- 
longed to her. I'll wager she's tracked you to 
this place, too! {With a wily smile.) Ah, 
Shloyme, Shloyme, such goods you 've selected ! 
(She goes over to the window and opens the 
shutters. The room grows lighter.) Why have 
they closed up the place, anyway? As if in 
mourning ! 

Don't worry, I tell you. Once I've said 
''yes," I mean it. Whoever else I'd refuse, I'll 
do it for you. Even if you have treated me 
shabbily of late. . . Well, never mind. Hindel 
may go to perdition for all it'll help her. 

Sarah, glides over to him, seizes his hand and 
looks straight into his eyes. 
A fellow as young as you, — how can you 
take such a scarecrow as Hindel? Who is she? 
She's roamed around from one brothel to anoth- 
er. Why, a young chap like you ! And you can 
make a tidy bit now. Then what do you need 
her for? With your couple of hundred roubles 
why can't you catch some fine, respectable girl? 
Why not? Aren't you as young and handsome 
as any other, I'd like to know? {Slaps him 



across the shoulders.) You just listen to me, 
Shloyme. You know I was never unkind to you, 
even if I haven't been all I might have, lately. 
But I've always been Sarah to you. Isn't that 
so? (Looking him straight in the eyes.) 

Shloyme, twirling his moustache. 
The devil! Deuce knows! I let my head be 
turned by the girl. . . Just for the time being. . . 
to get a few roubles. . . Do you really think I 
meant to marry her? My mother would have 
cursed every bone in my body. I have a respec- 
table mother. And my sister? 

Haven't you any better business prospects 
than to tie yourself to such a fright and open a 
place with her? Much there is in the business 
these days, anyway. It doesn't pay to have to 
do with outcasts of her type. (Comes close to 
him and thrusts her ear-rings into his hand.) 
Here, take these and here's another hundred 
roubles. Now tell me where Rifkele is. 

What's true is true. You were once a good 
woman. (Winks at her.) Lately you've been 
spoiled. But that's another matter. Just re- 
member that Shloyme is one of your own crowd. 
(Pockets her ear-rings.) 


And now tell me, Shloyme, where she is. You 



may tell me everything, even if I am her mother. 
You know, such things don't affect me. Tell 
me, — have you led her off somewhere to a. . . ? 

She is very near. . . If I say I'll bring her 
here, you may depend upon me. And listen, — 
may I have such luck, what a prize she would 
make ! Such eyes, such motions. And as clever 
as they make 'em! 

Ha! Ha! There's life to Sarah yet. . . But 
tell me, Shloyme, where have you put her? You 
may speak freely to me. {Places an arm about 
him and slaps him over the shoulder with the 
other, looking into his eyes coquettishly.) Come, 
tell me, good brother. 

Not far from here. Not far. . . (A thumping 
of fists is heard on the door leading to the out- 

HiNDEL, from without, 
You know nothing about her ! Nothing at all ! 

Let her hammer her head against the wall. 
Goodness me! How she holds him in her 
clutches ! Ha, ha ! He dare not leave her for a 
moment! {Making eyes at him.) Shame your- 
self, to have affairs with trash like that! 
{Shloyme meditates for a moment, Sarah 



seizes him by the arm and draws him aside.) 
See here. What do you need her for? I'll get 
a girl for you. A dream. You'll see. (Winks 
at him.) 

HiNDEL, forcing the door open, rushes in. 

What are they pestering him about? Bad 
dreams to them ! Their daughter runs away. . . 
{Seizing Shloyme hy the hand.) He doesn't 
know where she is. What do they want of you, 
anyway ? 

Sarah, sits down, glances teasingly at Shloyme 
and points to Hindel. 
So that's your style, eh? That thing there? 
Ha, ha! 

Hindel, looking around. 
She laughs like an evil spirit ! {To Shloyme.) 
You know nothing whatever about Rifkele. 
{Takes him aside. Softly.) Let's be off to 
Lodz at once. We'll marry there. . . Rent a 
house. . . With two girls like these we can. . . 
Consider what you're doing! {Aloud.) What 
are they pestering you for? You know nothing 
at all about her. {Pulling him out.) Come, 
Shloyme. {He is undecided.) 

Sarah, aloud, with a wily smile. 

Well, why don't you go along with her, 

Shloyme ? She 's come for you. . . to take you to 

Lodz. . . to get married. . . and set up house. 

Tee-hee! {Comes close to Shloyme and draws 



him away from Hindel.) A young chap like 
you, with a respectable mother, — and your 
father was a pious Jew. . . What does she want 
of you? What is she pestering you for? 

Shloyme, resolutely. 
Come, Sarah. We'll get Rifkele. 

Hindel, clapping her hand across his mouth. 
You'll not tell. You know nothing about her. 
(She runs over to the door, shuts it and stands 
with her hack against it.) I won't let you go 
out. {Runs over to Shloyme and seizes his 
hand.) Remember, Shloyme. It's all right for 
them. Then why not for usf Come, Shloyme. 
We'll leave this place. . . And we'll do such a 
business — such a flourishing business! 

We've heard all that. . . we've heard it before. 
{Thrusts her away.) We'll talk that over later. 
I haven't any time now. {Goes out with Sarah, 
followed by Hindel.) 

Sarah, running hack. Opens Rifkele's door 
and calls to the men inside. 
Rifkele is here! 

Hindel, from the entry. 
I'll not let you. You won't tell! 

Shloyme, in the doorway. 
Come, Sarah. 



Sarah, runs after him. 
I'm coming, Shloyme. {Sarah, Shloyme and 
Hindel leave.) 

Eeb Ali, enters, with Yekel. 
Praised be the Lord! Praised be the Heav- 
enly Father! {Following Yekel, who paces 
ahout the room.) See how the Almighty, 
blessed be His Name, has come to your aid ? He 
punishes, — yes. But he sends the remedy be- 
fore the disease. Despite your having sinned, 
despite your having uttered blasphemy. {Ad- 
monishi7ig him.) From now on see to it that 
you never speak such words, — that you have 
reverence, great reverence. . . Know what a 
Holy Scroll is, and what a learned Jew is. . . 
You must go to the synagogue, and you must 
make a generous donation to the students of the 
Law. You must fast in atonement, and the 
Lord will forgive you. {Pause. Beh Ali looks 
sternly at Yekel, who has continued to walk 
about the room, absorbed in his thoughts.) 
What? Aren't you listening to me? With the 
aid of the Almighty everything will turn out 
for the best. I'm going at once to the groom's 
father and we'll discuss the whole matter in de- 
tail. But be sure not to haggle. A hundred 
roubles more or less, — remember who you are 
and who he is. And what's more, see to it 
that you settle the dowry right away and in- 
dulge in no idle talk about the wedding. Hea- 
ven forbid, — another misfortune might occur! 



Such matters should not be delayed. {Glares 
angrily at Yekel.) What! You pay no atten- 
tion? I'm talking to you! 

Yekel, as if to himself. 
One thing I want to ask her. One thing only. 
But she must tell me the truth, — the whole 
truth. Yes, or no. 

Reb Ali 
Don't sin, man. Thank the good Lord that 
He has helped you. 

Yekel, as he fore. 
I'll not lay a finger upon her. Just let her 
answer the truth. Yes, or no. 

Reb Ali 
The truth. The truth. Heaven will help you 
. . . Everything will turn out for the best. I'm 
going to the young man's father directly. He's 
over at the synagogue and must surely be wait- 
ing for me. (Looks around.) Tell your wife 
to put the house in order in the meantime. And 
you, prepare the contract, and at once, so that 
he'll have no time to discover anything amiss 
and withdraw. Arrange the wedding date and 
have the bride go at once to her parents-in-law. 
No idle chatter, remember. Keep silent, so that 
nobody wiU learn anything about it. {Ready to 
go.) And cast all this nonsense out of your 
head. Trust in the Lord and rejoice in His 



comfort. (At the door.) Tell your wife to tidy 
up the place. (Leaves.) 

Yekel, strides nervously to and fro. 
Let her only tell me the truth. The plain 
truth. (A long silence.) 

Sarah, on the threshold. 
Come in. Come in. Your father won't beat 
you. (Pause.) Go in, I tell you. (Pushes Rif- 
kele into the room. Rifkele has a shawl over her 
head. She stands silent and motionless at the 
door, a shameless look in her eyes, biting her 
lips,) Well, what are you standing there for, 
my darling? Much pleasure you've brought us 
... in return for our trouble in bringing you 
up. We'll square that with you later. (Inter- 
rupting herself.) Get into your room. Comb 
your hair. Put on a dress. We're expecting 
guests. (To Yekel.) I just met Reb Ali. He's 
going for the groom's father. (Looks about the 
room.) Goodness me! How the place looks! 
(She begins hastily to place things in order.) 

Yekel, seeing Rifkele, fastens his gaze upon 
her, approaches her, takes her gently by the 
hand and leads her to the table. 

Don't be afraid. I'll not hurt you. (He sits 
doivn.) Sit down here beside me. (Pushes a 
chair toward her.) Sit down. 



RiFKELE, provoked, hides her face in her shawl. 
I can stand just as well. 

Sit down. {He seats her.) Don't be afraid. 

RiFKELE, from behind the shawl. 
Why should I be afraid? 

Yekel, speaks in a faltering voice. 
Rifkele, tell me, Rifkele. You are my daugh- 
ter I am your father. {Points to Sarah.) 
She is your mother. Tell me, my daughter^ 
Tell me the whole truth. Don't be afraid ot 
me Don't feel ashamed before me. I know, — 
not for your sins. . .not for your sins. . . For my 
sins, mine. . . For your mother's sins. . . our 
sins. . . Tell me, daughter. . . 

Just look at the way he's sat down to cross 
examine her ! What does he want of her ? The 
moment she arrives! Let her go m and dress. 
We'll soon be having company. {About to tane 
Rifkele away.) 

Let her go, I say ! ( Thrusts Sarah away from 




He's gone crazy today. What's possessed the 
man? {Resumes her cleaning.) 

Yekel, seating Rifkele beside him. 
I'll not beat you. {Clutching her slender 
throat with his fingers.) If I had only twisted 
your neck for you, like this, before you ever 
grew up, it would have been better for you, and 
for me. . . But don't be afraid. I won't harm 
you. It's not for your sins that God has pun- 
ished us. No. It's for ours. I guarded you 
like the apple of my eye. I had a Holy Scroll 
written for you. I placed it in your room and 
prayed to it for days and nights at a time. 
' ' Shield my child from evil ! Visit your punish- 
ment upon me! On her mother! But spare 
my daughter!" You'd grow up, I planned, and 
I'd make a fine match for you. I'd get you a 
respectable young man for a husband. I 'd keep 
you both here with me, at my expense. You 
would both live. . . 

Rifkele, still hidden behind her shawl. 
There's plenty of time for me to marry. I'm 
not so old. 

And she has the impudence to argue with 




They want to turn me into a Rabbi's wife.* 
Why didn't mamma marry early? 

Hold your tongue, or I'll slap you black and 
blue! Just listen to what she's picked up in a 
single night! 

RiFKELE, misunderstanding. 
Yes, I know everything now. 

Let her alone! {With nervous haste.) I 
want to ask her only one thing. One thing 
only. Tell me the truth. . . I'll not beat you. 
I'U not lay a finger upon you. You're not to 
blame. (Almost unahle to speak.) Tell me 
frankly, the — the — whole truth tell me. . . 
The truth. . . 

What truth shall she tell you? What do you 
want of the girl? 

I'm not asking you. . . {Arises ^ seizing Rif- 
kele hy the hand.) Don't feel ashamed before 
me. I'm your father. You may tell me every- 
thing. . . Speak openly. . . Are you — are you 
still as pure as when you left this house? Are 

* Colloquial expression signifying extreme piety. 



you still a virtuous Jewish daughter? (Shout- 
ing.) Yes, — a virtuous Jewish daughter? 

Sarah, tearing Bifkele out of YekeVs grasp. 
What do you want of the girl? The child is 
innocent of all evil. Let her go. 

Yekel, holding Bifkele firmly, and trying to 
look straight into her eyes. 
Just tell me the truth. I'll believe you. Look 
me straight in the face. Are you still an inno- 
cent Jewish child? Look me in the face! 
Straight in the eye! [Rifkele, despite YekeVs 
efforts y hides her face in the shawl.) 


Why don 't you take that shawl off your head ? 

You don't need it indoors. [Removes Rifkele's 

shaivl. Rifkele resists, hut losing her grasp 

upon the shawl she hides her face in her gown.) 

Yekel, loudly. 

Tell me now. Don't be ashamed. I'll do you 

no harm. {Holding her firmly hy the hand and 

looking her directly in the eye.) Are you still 

a chaste Jewish daughter? — Tell me, at once! 

Rifkele, trying to hide her face. 
I don't know. . . 

Yekel, at the top of his voice. 
You don't know! You don't know! Then 
who does know? What do you mean, — you 



''don't know?" The truth, now! Are you 
still — 

RiFKELE, tearing herself from Yekel. 
It was all right for mamma, wasn't it? And 
it was all right for you, wasn't it? I know all 
about it! . . . {Hiding her face in her hands.) 
Beat me ! Beat me ! Go on ! 


Rushes over to Rifkele with arms upraised^ 
ready to strike her. Yekel casts Sarah aside with 
a single hloiu, and falls into a chair, pale and 
hreathing hard. Rifkele sinks to the floor, weep- 
ing hysterically. A long pause. Sarah, plainly 
upset, paces aimlessly about the room. After a 
while she takes a hroom and hegins to sweep the 
room; her silence betrays a feeling of guilt. . . 
She then approaches Rifkele, lifts her by the 
hand and leads her off stage into the room. Yek^l 
is rooted to his place. Sarah returns, runs over 
to Yekel, grasps his hand and entreats him. 

Yekel, consider what you are doing, for God's 
sake ! Who need know anything ? (Pause.) Calm 
yourself. (Pause.) Rifkele will get married and 
we'll live to have plenty of happiness from her. 
(Yekel is silent.) Put on your coat, — they'll 
soon be here. (Abruptly.) Who need know any- 
thing at all alDout it? 

Silent. Stares vacantly into space. 



Sarah, brings in YekeVs coat and hat and 
places them upon him. He offers no resistance. 
What a misfortune! What a misfortune! 
Who could have foreseen such a thing? {She 
straightens YekeVs coat, then puts the room in 
order. Runs into Rifkele's room. She is heard 
hiding something there, and soon returns.) I'll 
have a reckoning with you later. {Putting the 
finishing touches to the room.) Terrible days, 
these. Bring up children with so much care 
and anxiety, and. . . Ah ! {Footsteps are heard 
outside. Sarah runs over to Yekel and pulls his 
sleeve.) They're here! For the love of God, 
Yekel, remember ! Everything can be fixed yet. 
{Enter Reh Ali arid a stranger. Sarah hastily 
thrusts her hair under her wig and goes to the 
door to ivelcome the visitors.) 

Reb Ali 
Good morning. 


Good morning. Good year. Welcome. 
{Somewhat confused, she places chairs before 
the guests and motions them to be seated.) 

Reb Ali, in a cheerful mood. 
Well, and where is the bride's father? {Look- 
ing about for Yekel.) 

Sarah, smiling, to her husband. 
Why don't you show yourself, Yekel? {She 


thricsts a chair taivard him. The visitors ex- 
press their greetings and take their seats.) 

Reb Ali, gesticulating. 
Let's get right down to business. (To the 
stranger, pointing to Tekel.) This gentleman 
wishes to unite families with you. He has an 
excellent daughter and wants as her husband a 
scholar well versed in Rabbinical lore. He'll 
support the couple for life. 

The Stranger 
That sounds inviting. 

Yekel, arising. 
Yes, my friend. A virtuous Jewish daughter 
... a model child. . . 

Reb Ali, to the stranger. 
He's ready to settle upon her a dowry of 
five hundred roubles cash at the time of the en- 
gagement. . . And he'll support the couple for 
life. He will treat your son as his own child. 

The Stranger 
Well, — there 's little need of my boosting my 
goods. With two years more of study, he'll 
have the whole learning at his finger tips. 

Reb Ali 

Naturally, naturally. This gentleman will 
guard him like the apple of his eye. He'll 
have the best of everything here. He'll be able 



to sit and study the Holy Law day and night, 
to his heart's content. 

Yekel, indicating RifkeWs room. 

Yes, he '11 sit inside there and study the sacred 
books. . . I have a virtuous Jewish daughter. 
{Goes into the room and drags Rifkele out hy 
force. She is only half dressed, her hair in dis- 
order. He points to her. ) Your son will marry 
a virtuous Jewish daughter, I say. She will 
bear him pure, Jewish children. . . even as all 
pious daughters. {To Sarah.) Isn't that so? 
{Laughing wildly , to the stranger.) Yes, in- 
deed, my friend, — she'll make a pure, pious 
little mate. My wife will lead her under the 
wedding canopy. . . Down into the brothel ! 
Down below! {Pointing to the cellar.) Down 
into the brothel! {Dragging Rifkele hy her 
hair to the door.) Down into the brothel with 
you ! Down ! 

Sarah, rushing madly over to Yekel. 
Good God! He 's gone stark mad ! {She tries 
to tear Rifkele away from Yekel; he thrusts 
Sarah aside and drags his daughter out hy the 


Down into the brothel with you! {He leaves 
together with Rifkele, whose cries are heard 
from outside.) 



The Stranger, ivith amazement and fright. 
What is this? (Bel) Ali beckons to him, pulls 

him by the sleeve and points to the door. The 

stranger stands motionless in his astonishment. 

Reb Ali draws him to the door. They leave. 


Yekel, enters, dragging back with him Reb Ali, 
whom he has met on the stairs. 
Take the Holy Scroll along with you ! I don 't 
need it any more ! 




, lllllllli, 

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